Friday, August 19, 2022

Live Update: Russia’s “Special Operation” in Ukraine; Day 144

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 central bank sold over $12bn of gold reserves during war: Deputy head

Ukraine’s central bank has sold $12.4bn of gold reserves since the beginning of Russia’s invasion on February 24, the bank’s deputy head has said.

“We are selling [this gold] so that our importers are able to buy necessary goods for the country,” Deputy Governor Kateryna Rozhkova told national television.

She added the gold was not being sold to shore up Ukraine’s hryvnia currency.


‘Russia must be recognised as a terrorist state’: Prosecutor general

Ukraine’s prosecutor general has stated that “Russia must be recognised as a terrorist state,” in a Twitter thread regarding the anniversary of the “tragic” shooting down of Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 as it flew over eastern Ukraine eight years ago.

“For 8 years, we have had terrible evidence of this,” Iryna Venediktova said on Twitter.

“The last 5 months were the peak of Russian terror – 23,000 war crimes committed against civilians, including international journalists showing the truth about #RussianWarCrimes,” she added.


Medvedev: West’s refusal to recognise Crimea as Russian is a threat

The refusal of Ukraine and NATO powers to recognise Moscow’s authority over Crimea represents a “systemic threat” for Russia, former Russian president Dmitry Medvedev has said.

“If any other state, be it Ukraine or NATO countries, believes that Crimea is not Russian, then this is a systemic threat for us,” Medvedev told World War II veterans, the Interfax news agency reported.

“This is a direct and an explicit threat, especially given what had happened to Crimea. Crimea returned to Russia,” added Medvedev, who now serves as deputy chairman of the Russian Security Council.


Scholz: EU needs to step up its game as ‘geopolitical actor’

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz is campaigning for a stronger and “geopolitical European Union” in the face of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

In a guest contribution for the Frankfurter Allegemeine Zeitung newspaper, the German leader called on the bloc to close its ranks in all areas on which member states have been divided so far, from migration policy to the development of a common European defence.

His government would make concrete suggestions “in the coming months” to achieve this, Scholz said.

According to the German leader, the EU is a “living antithesis to imperialism and autocracy,” which is why it is a nuisance for rulers like Russian President Vladimir Putin.


UK defence chief: 50,000 Russian soldiers have either died or been injured

Russia has lost more than 30% of its land combat effectiveness, Admiral Sir Tony Radakin, the chief of the defence staff for the UK, said on BBC One’s Sunday Morning show.

Because of this, Ukraine’s army “absolutely” believes it will win the war.

“They are absolutely clear that they plan to restore the whole of their territory in terms of Ukraine, and they see a Russia that is struggling, a Russia that we assess has lost more than 30% of its land combat effectiveness,” he stated.

“What that actually means is 50,000 Russian soldiers that have either died or been injured in this conflict, nearly 1,700 Russian tanks destroyed, nearly 4,000 armoured fighting vehicles that belong to Russia destroyed,” he added.

“Russia started this invasion with the ambition to take the whole of Ukraine, Russia had the ambition to take the cities in the first 30 days, Russia had the ambition to create fractures and to apply pressure to NATO – this is Russia as a challenge to the world order, Russia is failing in all of those ambitions, Russia is a more diminished nation than it was at the beginning of February,” he continued.


Germany won’t survive winter without Russian gas: official

Germany’s natural gas reserves are not enough to see the country through next winter without purchasing additional Russian gas, the top official in charge of electricity and gas networks has told the media.

In an interview with Germany’s Bild am Sonntag, published on Sunday, Klaus Muller warned that while “gas reservoirs are nearly 65% full,” and “it’s better than in the previous weeks” it is still not sufficient to “go through the winter without Russian gas.”

Muller, who is president of Germany’s Federal Network Agency, added that much now depends on whether maintenance work on the Nord Stream 1 pipeline concludes as expected on Thursday.

When asked how long it would take before energy prices for consumers in Germany are further raised, in case of a complete stoppage of Russian gas deliveries, Muller said no decision has yet been made. However, he offered reassurances, noting that “there hasn’t been any significant price surge this week, even though the Nord Stream 1 was shut off.”

The official suggested this may be a sign that “markets have already internalized the loss of Russian gas supplies and we’ve reached a gas-price-plateau.”

The energy regulator president insisted that Germans “shouldn’t succumb to panic,” assuring that “private households have the least reason of all to worry,” and will be provided with gas far longer than industry.

Moreover, according to the official, “there’s no scenario in which we remain completely without gas.”

Muller noted that even if Russia were to cut supplies entirely, other countries like Norway, the Netherlands and Belgium would still be selling the fossil fuels to Germany. In future, the country’s own liquefied natural gas terminal will also make a difference, the network agency’s president added.

Muller stated if gas rationing occurs, the agency will weigh up the potential damage to the economy and supply chains from shutting off supplies to any particular business or industrial plant.

The official went on to claim that even if there is a shortage, it will likely affect only the parts of Germany which are at the end of the gas network.

Muller also dismissed suggestions that Berlin should ban any gas exports to neighboring European countries, stressing the importance of solidarity.

“Just like we are now benefiting from the liquefied natural gas ports in Belgium and the Netherlands,” Germany would lend its neighbors a helping hand should they face a severe gas shortage, the official pledged.

Muller predicted that Germany has two difficult winters ahead, with a risk of gas shortages, but by summer 2024 the country will be independent from Russian gas.

“What is also true, however, is that the prices will never again be as low as they once were,” Muller acknowledged.

Since the start of Russia’s offensive against Ukraine, gas prices in Europe have soared, reaching an all-time-high of over $3,600 per 1,000 cubic meters in early March.


Ukraine war shows West’s dominance is ending: Blair

The Ukraine war shows that the West’s dominance is coming to an end as China rises to superpower status in partnership with Russia at one of the most significant inflexion points in centuries, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair has said.

The world, Blair stated, was at a turning point in history comparable with the end of World War II or the collapse of the Soviet Union: but this time the West is clearly not in the ascendant.

“We are coming to the end of Western political and economic dominance,” Blair said in a lecture entitled “After Ukraine, What Lessons Now for Western Leadership?” according to a text of the speech to a forum supporting the alliance between the United States and Europe at Ditchley Park west of London.

“The world is going to be at least bipolar and possibly multipolar,” Blair continued, adding, “The biggest geopolitical change of this century will come from China, not Russia.”


EU mulls sanctions as Russia accused of shelling Ukraine from nuclear plant

The European Union will discuss tightening sanctions against Russia on Monday, as Moscow is accused of using the continent’s largest nuclear power plant to store weapons and launch missiles on the surrounding regions of southern Ukraine.

The situation at the captured Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant is “extremely tense”, Ukraine’s atomic energy agency chief Petro Kotin has said, adding that the Russians had installed missile launchers and used the facility to shell the Dnipro region.

Describing “a deluge of fire”, regional governor Valentyn Reznichenko stated Grad missiles had pounded residential areas.


Russia reinforces defensive positions in occupied southern Ukraine

Russia is reinforcing its defensive positions across the areas it occupies in southern Ukraine, the British Ministry of Defence has announced.

The reinforcements include movement of manpower and equipment, defensive stores between Mariupol and Zaporizhzhia, and in Kherson, while Russian forces in Melitopol are also increasing security measures, the ministry wrote on Twitter in a regular bulletin.


Ukraine will continue to ‘liberate’ territory: Zelensky

Ukraine has recaptured some areas occupied by Russian forces and will continue to fight to win back territory, President Volodymyr Zelensky has said.

“We have already succeeded in liberating part of the territory occupied after February 24,” he stated in his daily video address late on Saturday.

“Gradually, we will liberate other regions of our country that are currently occupied,” he added.

Ukrainian forces recently launched counter-offensives in the south of the country and shelled a Russian ammunition depot in the Kherson region a few days ago.

Zelensky has accused Russia of adding “media terror” to its barrage of attacks against Ukraine, warning his citizens to be careful in what they say and which sources they trust.

Ukraine fight for sovereignty depends not only on its wins on the battlefield but also “on the ability of Ukrainians to be very careful and circumspect in the information field,” he noted.

“How many headaches are given every day by the production of horror stories from Russian propagandists and officials… How many problems Ukrainians create for themselves by trusting any anonymous source… This sometimes takes on simply unhealthy forms when social networks and websites deliberately stuff fake information from Russia, the purpose of which is only one – to add media terror to the missile and artillery terror against our country,” the president stressed.

He asked Ukrainians to build up a “kind of emotional sovereignty” in order “to have the power to consciously perceive any information, any messages, no matter who they come from. And to see who needs them and for what.”


Russia preparing for next stage of offensive: Ukraine

Russia is preparing for the next stage of its offensive in Ukraine, a Ukrainian military official has said, after Moscow announced its forces would step up military operations in “all operational areas”.

Russian rockets and missiles have pounded cities in strikes that Kyiv says have killed dozens in recent days.

“It is not only missile strikes from the air and sea,” Vadym Skibitskyi, a spokesman for Ukrainian military intelligence, stated on Saturday.

“We can see shelling along the entire line of contact, along the entire front line. There is an active use of tactical aviation and attack helicopters,” Skibitskyi added.

“There is indeed a certain activation of the enemy along the entire front line… Clearly preparations are now underway for the next stage of the offensive,” he noted.


Ukraine’s envoy to the US says Russia stepping up war crimes

Ukraine’s ambassador to the United States has stated Russia is stepping up its war crimes and asked the world to remain focused as the war becomes more prolonged.

“When Russia says it is stepping up attacks, it means it is stepping up its war crimes,” Oksana Markarova said in an interview on Fox News.

“The world has shown unprecedented unity unlike in 2014. We are grateful for it. But as it gets prolonged, we need to keep the focus and we are asking everyone who shares the same values and everyone who understands that this fight is much bigger than Ukraine… We all together we must stay focused, stay supportive and not to lose attention for this very important fight for… democracy,” she added.

Markarova also called for more weapons including High Mobility Artillery Rocket System, noting, “HIMARS is the most quoted name in Ukraine now. Mothers are praying for these weapons because they are defending our children.”


Nearly 30,000 Ukrainians ‘evacuated’ to Russia: Official

Moscow has evacuated nearly 30,000 people, including more than 5,000 children, from areas in Ukraine to Russia over the past day without the participation of Ukrainian authorities, the head of Russia’s national defence control centre has said, according to Interfax.

“Over the past 24 hours, without the participation of the Ukrainian authorities, 28,424 people, including 5,148 children, have been evacuated from dangerous regions of Ukraine and the republics of Donbas to the territory of the Russian Federation, and in total since the beginning of the special military operation – 2,612,747 people, of which 412,553 are children,” Mikhail Mizintsev stated in a briefing on Saturday.

Ukraine and Western partners have accused Russia of forcefully deporting Ukrainian citizens, including children, many of whom they say Russia plans to illegally adopt out across the country. The United Kingdom has sanctioned Moscow’s presidential commissioner for children’s rights, Maria Lvova-Belova, “for her alleged involvement in the forced transfer and adoption of Ukrainian children”.

Russia calls its war in Ukraine a “special military operation”.


Indonesia says ‘many’ nations condemned Russia at G20 talks

Many nations in the Group of 20 major economies condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and called for it to end the war during ministerial talks in Indonesia, the host has said in its closing statement.

“Many members agreed that the recovery of the global economy has slowed and is facing a major setback as a result of Russia’s war against Ukraine, which was strongly condemned, and called for an end to the war,” Indonesia announced in the declaration early on Sunday.

Jakarta, which has been balancing its neutral foreign policy stance with hosting the G20 summit in November, replaced a joint communique with a 14-paragraph chair’s statement that did not fall under the forum’s banner and included two sections on members’ differences.

“One member expressed the view that the sanctions are adding to existing challenges,” it added, in an apparent reference to Russia, which has denied blame for the current global economic headwinds.


Ukraine: Russia shelling Nikopol, Dnipro from captured nuclear plant

Ukraine’s atomic energy agency says Russia is using Europe’s largest nuclear power plant to store weapons and shell the surrounding regions of Nikopol and Dnipro that were hit on Saturday.

Petro Kotin, president of Ukrainian nuclear agency Energoatom, called the situation at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant “extremely tense” with up to 500 Russian soldiers controlling the plant.

The plant in southeast Ukraine has been under Russian control since the early weeks of Moscow’s invasion, though it is still operated by Ukrainian staff.

“The occupiers bring their machinery there, including missile systems, from which they already shell the other side of the river Dnieper and the territory of Nikopol,” he stated in a Ukrainian television interview.


Canada: Russian presence at G20 meeting ‘absurd’

Canada says Russia’s participation in a meeting of G20 finance ministers that was overshadowed by its invasion of Ukraine was “absurd”.

“Russia’s presence at this meeting was like inviting an arsonist to a meeting of firefighters,” Canadian Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland stated.

“That is because Russia is directly and solely responsible for the illegal invasion of Ukraine, and its economic consequences, which are being felt by us all,” Freeland continued.

Freeland, who is also Canada’s deputy prime minister and of Ukrainian heritage, added, “We were clear and explicit that Russia’s participation was inappropriate and frankly, just absurd.”


Ukraine doctors see spike in brain injuries and PTSD

Doctors in Ukraine say they are concerned about the trauma soldiers are being exposed to on the war’s front lines.

They are seeing a significant spike in serious brain injuries and post-traumatic stress cases.

But the best the doctors can do at the moment is patch them up and send them back.

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