Friday, July 12, 2024

Russia’s “Special Operation” in Ukraine; Day 130: Russia says in full control of Ukraine’s Luhansk Province

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 says Russian ship carrying Ukrainian grain detained by Turkey

Turkish customs authorities have detained a Russian cargo ship carrying grain which Ukraine says is stolen, Ukraine’s ambassador to Turkey said on Sunday.

Ukraine had previously asked Turkey to detain the Russian-flagged Zhibek Zholy cargo ship, according to an official and documents viewed by Reuters.

Reuters reporters saw the Zhibek Zholy ship anchored about 1 km from shore and outside of the Karasu port on Sunday, with no obvious signs of movement aboard or by other vessels nearby.

“We have full co-operation. The ship is currently standing at the entrance to the port, it has been detained by the customs authorities of Turkey,” Ambassador Vasyl Bodnar stated on Ukrainian national television.

Bodnar added the ship’s fate would be decided by a meeting of investigators on Monday and that Ukraine was hoping for the confiscation of the grain.

Ukraine has accused Russia of stealing grain from the territories that Russian forces have seized since Moscow’s invasion began in late February. The Kremlin has previously denied that Russia has stolen any Ukrainian grain.

A Ukrainian foreign ministry official, citing information from Ukraine’s maritime administration, told Reuters on Friday the 7,146 dwt Zhibek Zholy had loaded the first cargo of some 4,500 tonnes of Ukrainian grain from Berdyansk, a Russian-occupied port in south Ukraine.

Kremlin: West still betting on continuing war, not allowing Kiev to talk about peace

The West is currently betting on continuing the war, Washington does not allow Kiev to think or talk about peace, Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov stated on Sunday.

“Now is the moment when Western countries are betting on the continuation of the war. This means that the moment continues when Western countries, under the leadership of Washington, do not allow Ukrainians to think or talk about peace,” Peskov said in an interview with Rossiya-1 TV channel.

At the same time, he is convinced that sooner or later common sense in the West will prevail and negotiations on Ukraine will resume.

“Now the demand for initiatives to pacify the situation has declined. But we have no doubt that sooner or later common sense will prevail and once again the turn of negotiations will come,” Peskov added.

He also noted that before the negotiation process resumes, Ukraine will have to “once again understand Moscow’s conditions”. “Agree to them. Sit down at the table. And just formalize the document that has already been agreed in many respects,” Peskov concluded.

European leaders most often lack the strength to be guided only by the interests of their countries, they have to follow the collective West, Russian presidential spokesman continued.

“European leaders, they still have their own countries with their own interests. And they actually can have varying points of view. We see this very well,” Peskov stated, commenting on the differences between countries in the G20.

EU eyes anti-Russia sanctions authority

Lawmakers in the European Union are seeking a new authority to enforce sanctions against Moscow over the conflict in Ukraine, Mairead McGuinness, European Commissioner for Financial Services, told the Financial Times on Sunday.

According to the official, the bloc is considering an EU version of the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), a financial intelligence agency of the US Treasury Department, which spearheads enforcement of penalties.

“Anything that would help member states implement [sanctions], and where we see European oversight and co-ordination… would be a plus,” McGuinness said, noting, “The idea of having an overarching view of sanctions and their implementation is one I would support.”

She added that as an alternative, Brussels could authorise its planned Anti-Money Laundering Authority (AMLA) to oversee sanctions, by amending legislation currently being thrashed out by the European Parliament and member states.

EU sanctions policy has faced criticism over uneven enforcement, with all measures proposed by the European Commission and approved by EU capitals being implemented by national authorities across the 27-nation bloc.

McGuinness claimed Brussels had made “extraordinary progress” in drafting the sanctions and co-ordinating them with international partners, and that there was “strong implementation across 27 different ways of doing business.”

“In some countries there’s a strong infrastructure on sanctions implementation and others not so,” she stated.

Russia was hit with a wide range of Western sanctions over the conflict in Eastern Ukraine and reunification with Crimea back in 2014. The penalties have been substantially reinforced since February 24, when Moscow started its military offensive, turning the nation into one of the world’s most sanctioned countries, along with Iran, Cuba and North Korea.

Shelling hits Sloviansk, ‘many killed’

The eastern Ukrainian city of Sloviansk is hit by powerful shelling from multiple rocket launchers and many people are killed and wounded, according to the city’s Mayor Vadim Lyakh.

“There are 15 fires. Many killed and wounded,” Lyakh wrote on Telegram, stating it was the most powerful shelling of the city recently.

Russia: UK tries to create conditions for using its fleet in Black Sea

The UK authorities are trying to find pretexts and create conditions to introduce their fleet into the Black Sea and establish control over the grain export from Ukraine, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on Sanday.

“For example, if you listen to the statement of [UK Prime Minister] Boris Johnson and his Foreign Secretary [Liz Truss] – they are clearly trying to create conditions, to find pretexts for the Royal Navy to infiltrate the Black Sea and manage almost all the processes of liberating grain from the ports that were mined by Ukrainians and which Ukrainians have to clear from mines,” he stated.

Lavrov added that Western countries are trying to use the global food crisis for a variety of purposes, including propaganda.

Australia PM visits Irpin

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese visited Irpin on Sunday saying it was “devastating” to see residential buildings destroyed from the result of shelling. it “a war crime.”

“And here we have what – clearly a residential building. Another one just behind it. Brutally assaulted. You know, this is a war crime, “he added.

Moscow takes full control of Luhansk region: Russian DM

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu has briefed President Vladimir Putin on the complete liberation of the Luhansk People’s Republic (LPR), which Moscow recognized earlier this year, from Ukrainian forces.

According to the Russian Defense Ministry, the LPR’s liberation was completed with the fall of the city of Lysychansk, as well as several nearby towns, such as Belogorovka, Novodruzhesk, Maloryazantsevo and Belaya Gora, which are now under the control of the Russian and LPR Armed Forces.

The two states’ troops liberated 182 square kilometers of LPR lands from Kiev-controlled forces, the ministry added.

Lysychansk ‘completely’ encircled: Russia-backed separatists

Ukrainian separatists backed by Russia say they had “completely” encircled the key city of Lysychansk in the eastern Luhansk region.

“Today the Luhansk popular militia and Russian forces occupied the last strategic heights, which allows us to confirm that Lysychansk is completely encircled,” Andrei Marotchko, a spokesman for the separatist forces, told the TASS news agency.

The Ukrainian army, however, rejects the claims that Lysychansk has been surrounded, but says heavy fighting was ongoing on its edges.

“Fighting rages around Lysychansk. (But) luckily the city has not been encircled and is under control of the Ukrainian army,” Ruslan Muzytchuk, a spokesman for the Ukrainian National Guard, stated on Ukrainian television.

“The Russians are entrenching themselves in a district of Lysychansk, the city is on fire,” Sergei Gaidai, governor of the Luhansk region, adds on Telegram.

 “They attacked the city with inexplicably brutal tactics,” he says.

Three dead after suspected shelling in Russian city near Ukraine

Three people have been killed, four injured, and several houses damaged in powerful explosion in Belgorod, a Russian city 40km from the border with Ukraine, according to the regional governor.

“We currently have information about three fatalities,” Vyacheslav Gladkov wrote on his Telegram channel on Sunday morning, adding that the city’s air defenses may have been activated overnight.

Russian news outlet Baza later reported that two more bodies were discovered, raising the death toll to five. This has not been confirmed by officials.

Zelensky: 2,610 Ukrainian cities, towns remain under Russian occupation

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said more than 2,600 cities and towns remain under Russian occupation as the war carries on.

Zelensky stated Ukrainian forces have liberated more than 1,000 cities and towns, but they still need to free 2,610.

He added most of those locations impacted by the conflict need to be reconstructed, and hundreds of them were “completely destroyed by the Russian army.”

Ukraine adviser concedes Lysychansk could fall

An adviser to President Volodymyr Zelensky has conceded that the city of Lysychansk, Ukraine’s last big bastion in the eastern province of Luhansk, could fall to the Russians.

“This is indeed a threat. We shall see. I do not rule out any one of a number of outcomes here. Things will become much more clear within a day or two,” said Oleksiy Arestovych.

“If Lysychansk is taken, strategically it becomes more difficult for the Russians to continue their offensive. The front lines will be flatter and there will be a frontal attack rather than from the flanks,” he added.

He said the Russians would have to focus on taking six major cities in the industrialised eastern Donbas region and with each their forces would be more and more thinly spread.

“The more Western weapons come to the front, the more the picture changes in favour of Ukraine,” he added.

Explosions reported in the Russian city of Belgorod

A Russian official says blasts in the city of Belgorod, near the border with Ukraine, resulted in a fire in a residential building.

Vyacheslav Gladkov, the governor of Belgorod, stated three wounded people were taken to a hospital.

“Reasons for the incident are being investigated,” he wrote on the Telegram messaging app, adding, “Presumably, the air defence system worked.”

‘Colossal investments’ required to rebuild Ukraine: Zelenskyy

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has called for international aid to help rebuild his devastated country once the war is over, sounding a rare hopeful note after four months of brutal conflict.

“It is necessary not only to repair everything the occupiers have destroyed, but also to create a new foundation for our lives: safe, modern, comfortable, accessible,” he said in his night time address.

This would require “colossal investments, billions, new technologies, best practices, new institutions and, of course, reforms,” he continued, adding, “No matter how difficult it is for us today, we must remember that there will be a tomorrow.”

On Monday, a meeting of some 40 potential donor countries is due to take place in Lugano, Switzerland, where the Ukrainian government intends to present its priorities for the reconstruction of the war-ravaged country for the first time.

Zelensky also used his video address to remind Ukrainians that the war was far from over.

“Its cruelty is increasing in some places, and it cannot be forgotten,” he noted, appealing to his compatriots to offer assistance to victims of the brutal conflict.

Lukashenko says Ukraine fired missiles on Belarus

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko claimed his army had shot down missiles fired into their territory from Ukraine and vowed to respond “instantly” to any enemy strike.

“We are being provoked,” Lukashenko was quoted as saying by state news agency Belta.

“I must tell you that around three days ago, maybe more, they tried to strike military targets in Belarus from Ukraine,” he stated, adding, “Thank God, our Pantsir anti-air systems intercepted all the missiles fired by the Ukrainian forces.”

Ukraine last week announced missiles fired from Belarus had struck a border region inside its territory.

Lukashenko denied his country was seeking to intervene in the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, but issued a warning aimed at Kyiv and its Western allies.

“As I said more than a year ago, we do not intend to fight in Ukraine,” he said.

“We will only fight in one case. If you… enter our land, if you kill our people, then we will respond,” he added, warning that Belarus would reply “instantly” to an enemy strike on its soil.

EU works on emergency plan to help cut imports of Russian energy

The European Union is preparing an emergency plan to help member states cut back on Russian energy.

“We need a good, common plan that the energy flows, or the gas flows, where it is needed most,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen stated.

The new measures — due by mid-July — will build on May’s REPowerEU plan to abandon Russian energy sources because of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. That plan allotted nearly $312bn to promote energy efficiency and increased use of renewables.

At the end of May, the EU agreed to halt seaborne imports of Russian oil within months, with some exceptions. The bloc imported 35 percent of its oil from Russia in 2020, and the import ban “will effectively cut around 90 percent of oil imports” from Russia by the end of 2022, according to von der Leyen.

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