Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Russia’s “Special Operation” in Ukraine; Day 145: Ukraine says over 38k Russian soldiers killed in war

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 claims Russia has fired 3,000 missiles since war started

The Ukrainian Air Force claimed Russia has fired 3,000 missiles since the invasion of Ukraine started on Feb. 24.

“As of today, the enemy has already fired about three thousand missiles of various types over Ukraine,” the Ukrainian Air Force said in a Facebook post Monday.

“These are cruise missiles, air-to-surface missiles, operational-tactical missiles (Tochka-U, Iskander), as well as Onyx missiles of the Bastion coastal complex,” it added.

The Ukrainian Air Force also noted that recently, Moscow had started using more Soviet-era projectiles.

“Increasingly, the enemy is using old Soviet missiles, such as X-59, X-22, X-31 and others, against the positions of the Ukrainian army and civilian objects,” the post said, adding, “And in recent weeks, the enemy began to hit ground targets with anti-aircraft missiles from the S-300 complex, the main purpose of which is to destroy air targets.”

3 Russian bases hit in Kherson in last 24 hours: Ukrainian officials

Ukrainian officials have given further details of targets struck in Russian-occupied Kherson in the south of the country.

Serhii Khlan, adviser to the head of the Kherson civil-military administration, said the third target to be hit in the last 24 hours was in the district of Beryslav on the north bank of the river Dnieper.

“The base of the invaders was destroyed, where they also placed both equipment and ammunition depots,” Khlan added.

Separately, Natalia Humeniuk, spokesperson for Operational Command South, told CNN that “at 5 a.m., our units struck a concentration of enemy, weapons and equipment, as well as an ammunition warehouse in the Raiske district [near Nova Kakhovka on the south bank of the river] and an ammunition warehouse in the Beryslav district.”

Ukrainian forces have been targeting Russian ammunition sites and command posts in Kherson on an almost daily basis over the past two weeks in an effort to disrupt Russian supply lines.

Turkey will ‘freeze’ Finland, Sweden’s NATO bids if promises unkept: Erdogan

Turkey’s president said Ankara will “freeze” Finland and Sweden’s NATO membership bids if the Nordic countries do not keep promises on “terrorism” made last month.

“I want to reiterate once again that we will freeze the process if these countries do not take the necessary steps to fulfil our conditions,” Recep Tayyip Erdogan told reporters.

“We particularly note that Sweden does not have a good image on this issue,” he added.

Finland and Sweden applied for membership of the transatlantic military alliance in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, but were initially met with opposition from Turkey, which accused the Nordic countries of supporting groups it deems to be “terrorists”.

The three countries signed an accord at the NATO summit in Madrid last month to lift Ankara’s veto in exchange for pledges on “counter-terrorism” and arms exports.

Countries seeking to join the NATO alliance must have their membership applications approved by all 30 existing member states, and ratified by the countries’ respective parliaments.

Ukraine accuses Russia of mistreating captured foreign fighters

Ukraine’s foreign ministry has accused Russia of illegally mistreating foreign fighters captured by Moscow’s forces and using them for political purposes.

The ministry also called on Moscow to ensure foreigners taken prisoner of war while battling on Kyiv’s behalf amid the conflict were given humane treatment.

It urged Russia to adhere strictly to the provisions of international humanitarian law, including the 1949 Geneva Conventions which define international legal standards for humanitarian treatment.

The ministry also said “all foreign citizens and stateless persons” fighting for Ukraine on Ukrainian territory had been voluntarily accepted for military service, and that international humanitarian law should apply to them.

Germany rejects Russian explanation for gas supply cut

Germany’s government has said that a turbine at the centre of uncertainty about future gas deliveries through a major pipeline from Russia to Europe was only supposed to be installed in September, underlining its insistence that there should be no technical obstacle to the gas flow.

“We don’t see technical reasons,” Economy Ministry spokeswoman Beate Baron told reporters in Berlin.

“Our information is that this turbine is a replacement turbine that was earmarked for use in September but, again, we are doing everything to take away possible pretexts for the Russian side,” she added.

Meanwhile, Germany’s biggest importer of Russian gas said it had received a letter from Russia’s Gazprom claiming “force majeure” – events beyond its control – as the reason for past and current shortfalls in gas deliveries, a claim that the customer rejected.

Gazprom reduced gas deliveries through the Nord Stream 1 pipeline to Germany by 60 percent last month. The state-owned gas company cited alleged technical problems involving equipment that partner Siemens Energy sent to Canada for overhaul and couldn’t be returned because of sanctions imposed over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Nord Stream 1 shut down altogether for annual maintenance on July 11. German officials are concerned that Russia may not resume gas deliveries at all after the scheduled end of that work on Thursday, and could cite another alleged technical reason not to do so.

Italy eyes increased gas supplies from Algeria

Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi has stated that gas supplies from Algeria to Italy will become more significant in the coming years as Rome seeks to reduce its reliance on Russia for energy.

Draghi added Italy was a “privileged partner” of Algeria and that the two countries were also cooperating in the development of renewable energy following a meeting with Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune in Algiers.

EU reaches deal with Azerbaijan to double gas imports by 2027

The European Commission has signed a deal with Azerbaijan to double imports of Azeri natural gas to at least 20 billion cubic metres a year by 2027.

“Today, with this new Memorandum of Understanding, we are opening a new chapter in our energy cooperation with Azerbaijan, a key partner in our efforts to move away from Russian fossil fuels,” Ursula von der Leyen said.

The EU is seeking alternative suppliers to Russia because of the invasion of Ukraine.

Azerbaijan is already increasing deliveries of natural gas to the EU from 8.1 billion cubic metres (bcm) in 2021 to an expected 12bcm in 2022, the Commission added.

Kremlin: Putin, Erdogan to discuss Ukrainian grain exports

Vladimir Putin and Recep Tayyip Erdogan will discuss the export of Ukrainian grain at their meeting in Tehran on Tuesday, a Kremlin aide has told reporters.

“The issue of Ukrainian grain shipment will be discussed with Erdogan … We are ready to continue work on this track,” Yuriy Ushakov, a foreign policy adviser to Putin, noted.

Ushakov’s remarks came amid expectations that Russia, Ukraine, Turkey and the United Nations will sign a deal later this week aimed at resuming the shipping of grain from Ukraine across the Black Sea.

Ukraine’s Black Sea ports, until now the main conduit for its agricultural exports, have been blocked since Russia began what it terms its “special military operation” in Ukraine in late February

Turkey says meeting on Ukraine grain exports expected this week

Officials from Russia, Ukraine, Turkey and the United Nations will most likely meet this week to discuss resuming Ukraine’s Black Sea grain exports, Turkey’s defence minister has said.

Hulusi Akar stated on Monday there was an agreement on “a plan” and “general principles” regarding the export corridor, and added a meeting between all parties to discuss the details of the proposal was “probable” this week.

He added technical matters like forming a monitoring centre in Istanbul, identifying safe routes, and checkpoints at port exits and entries were on the agenda.

Last week, Akar noted Russia, Ukraine, Turkey and the UN would sign a deal this week on the grain exports corridor, but UN chief Antonio Guterres warned there was still “a long way to go” before there would be peace talks to end the war.

Ukraine’s FM asks EU for more weapons and further sanctions against Russia

Ukraine’s foreign minister has called on the European Union to send additional weapons to his country and to impose additional sanctions on Russia.

“Today, I addressed EU ministers at the Foreign Affairs Council,” Dmytro Kuleba tweeted on Monday.

“My key message: weapons to Ukraine, sanctions on Russia, and accountability for Russia are the three ways to restore peace, enhance security, and protect stability in Europe,” he continued.

“Weapons: grateful for the extra €500 mln under the EPF and urge additional bilateral military aid,” Kuleba added.

Addressing the issue of further sanctions on Russia, the Ukrainian minister stated, “Energy embargo, price cap on oil, ban on all Russian TV channels.”

“I encourage EU states to support the Special Tribunal for the Crime of Aggression Against Ukraine,” Kuleba wrote.

Putin says Russia cannot be cut off from rest of world

President Vladimir Putin has said it will be impossible to cut Russia off from the rest of the world, and that the country must focus on developing its own technology and supporting fast-growing companies.

“Clearly, we cannot develop in isolation from the rest of the world, but we won’t. In today’s world, you can’t just, you know, circle everything with a compass and put up a huge fence, it’s just not possible,” Putin stated during a video conference with government officials.

The Russian leader also vowed Moscow would overcome the “colossal” high-tech problems his country is facing as a result of sweeping Western sanctions over the war in Ukraine.

“This is a huge challenge for our country,” Putin continued, adding, “Realising the colossal amount of difficulties we are facing, we will look for new solutions in an energetic and competent manner.”

Ukraine needs more external aid to prevent crisis: Official

Ukraine’s foreign partners need to increase their financial support for Kyiv to help it maintain financial stability during the war with Russia, an adviser to the President Volodymyr Zelensky’s office has said.

Tymofiy Mylovanov stated the current size of loans and other assistance provided was not enough to finance Ukraine’s needs, which had increased significantly because of the conflict while revenues had fallen.

“If we don’t cut expenditures, don’t increase inflows, in particular from international partners, if we don’t stabilise the situation, then … we may have a month or two to spare, and then we will have a crisis,” Mylovanov told national television.

EU seeking to double gas imports from Azerbaijan

European Union chief Von der Leyen stated the bloc wants to double its gas imports from Azerbaijan as it urgently seeks to reduce its reliance on Russian energy imports.

“The EU is turning to more reliable energy suppliers. Today I’m in Azerbaijan to sign a new agreement. Our goal: double the gas delivery from Azerbaijan to the EU in a few years,” she tweeted during a visit to the Caucasus country.

Russian shelling kills six in Donetsk: Emergency service

Six people have been killed by Russian shelling in the town of Toretsk, in eastern Ukraine’s Donetsk region, according to the country’s State Emergency Service.

Rescuers retrieved five bodies from the rubble of a two-storey house and another person died in hospital, the department announced in a Facebook post.

Russia, which describes its offensive in Ukraine as a “special military operation”, has repeatedly denied deliberately targeting civilians during the war.

Donetsk is one of two regions – alongside neighbouring Luhansk – which together form the area known as the Donbas, where Moscow has focused its attacks in recent months.

Russian DM orders forces to destroy Ukrainian missiles: Report

Russia’s defence minister has instructed the country’s military to prioritise destroying Ukraine’s long-range missile and artillery weapons, the TASS news agency has reported.

Tass quoted Sergei Shoigu as telling the commander of the Vostok battlegroup during an inspection that Russian forces should “use surgical strikes” to “crush the enemy’s long-range missile and artillery means”.

The instruction came amid claims from Kyiv that it has carried out a string of successful strikes on 30 Russian logistics and ammunition hubs, using several multiple launch rocket systems recently supplied by the West.

Russians buying cheaper food items as incomes fall: Leading retailer

Russian shoppers are switching to cheaper food items driven by a drop in real disposable income, the country’s leading food retailer X5 Group has said, as high inflation crimps purchasing power.

Though a stronger rouble and a drop in consumer demand have helped Russia rein in inflation, which soared to 20-year highs in annual terms following Moscow’s move to invade Ukraine, consumer prices are still elevated.

Federal Statistics Service Rosstat announced last week that consumer prices have risen 11.60 percent so far this year. But food inflation in the second quarter of 2022 was running at 19.5 percent year-on-year, X5 said, up from 13.5 percent in the first quarter.

High inflation has been the key concern among Russian households for years as it dents living standards, something that this year will be aggravated by the economic crisis triggered by unprecedented Western sanctions against Russia.

Ukraine claims to have hit more ammunition sites in occupied Kherson

Social media videos and photos published early Monday showed large explosions in the Kherson region, close to the River Dnipro.

Serhii Khlan, an adviser to the head of the Kherson civil-military administration, told CNN that two warehouses in Russian-occupied territory had been struck – one in Chulakivka at 11pm local time Sunday and the other in Raiske near Nova Kakhovk at 5am local time Monday. He said detonations had continued for several hours In Raiske.

Ukrainian forces had previously targeted a large warehouse said to contain Russian munitions in Nova Kakhovka, setting off multiple detonations and sending a huge fireball into the sky.

The arrival of high-precision long-range artillery and rocket systems from western allies has allowed Ukrainian forces to target Russian supply lines and storage sites far behind the front lines.

At least 353 Ukrainian children killed as a result of Russia’s invasion

At least 353 Ukrainian children have died and more than 665 been injured due to Russia’s invasion, the Ukrainian Juvenile Prosecutor’s Office announced on Monday.

Most injuries were reported in Donetsk, Kharkiv and Kyiv, it said.

It added at least 2,138 educational institutions have been damaged, of which 221 have been completely destroyed.

Ukraine military says several Russian attempts to advance in Donetsk have been repulsed

The Ukrainian military announced Monday that shelling of its defenses across Donetsk is continuing, but renewed attempts by Russian forces to win territory have been foiled.

The General Staff said that north of the city of Sloviansk more than ten settlements had come under fire. Most civilians left the area weeks ago.

The Russians continued to shell areas along the border of the Luhansk and Donetsk regions and were persisting with a ground assault to the east of the city of Lysychansk, which they took last month.

Ukrainian forces still defending this pocket of territory in eastern Donetsk region are being attacked from two sides as the Russians try to close in on the town of Siversk. But the General Staff said that “our defenders successfully repulsed the assaults in the areas of Verkhniokamianske, Spirne and Serebrianka settlements,” all close to Siversk.

The Ukrainian military added Russian efforts to attack from the south, near Bakhmut, had also been rebuffed.

Overall, very little territory has changed hands in Donbas since the fall of Lysychansk as Ukrainian forces have adopted new defensive positions.

Oleksandr Honcharenko, the mayor of Kramatorsk, noted that early Monday, there had been four strikes on an industrial zone in the city. Kramatorsk is some distance from the front lines but one of several cities in the west of Donetsk region that are seeing an uptick in long-range Russian missile and rocket attacks.

In the south, the military stated the Russians had tried to carry out an airstrike in northern Kherson, parts of which were liberated in recent weeks.

“After attacking our positions, the [enemy] immediately retreated under the onslaught of fire,” Operational Command South reported.

It claimed that Ukrainian aircraft had hit Russian weapons and ammunition near Davydiv Brid, on the border of Kherson and Mykolaiv regions.

Elsewhere in the south, heavy shelling was reported overnight in the town of Nikopol in Dnipropetrovsk region, with about ten homes and a power plant hit.

Russia’s block on Ukraine grain ‘issue of life or death’: EU official

Russia’s blockade of Ukrainian ports threatens grain supplies to tens of thousands of people vulnerable to starvation and must end, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell has warned.

“It’s an issue of life and death for many human beings. And the question is that Russia has to de-block and allow Ukrainian grain to be exported,” Borrell told reporters.

“We are not going to stop supporting Ukraine and putting sanctions on Russia,” he said, adding, “Certainly there is a risk to our energy supply. Everybody knows (that).”

He noted that the EU Commission and Council were prepared to face “any possible situation.”

EU foreign ministers are expected to meet in Brussels on Monday to hold sanctions discussions, according to a senior EU official.

Ukraine claims 38,450 Russian soldiers killed

Ukraine’s army killed 150 Russian military personnel in the past day, the general staff of Ukraine’s armed forces said on Monday.

This brings the total number of Russian personnel lost, since the beginning of the invasion on February 24, to 38,450, the general staff added.

Moscow: NATO MRL experts appear to be directing Ukrainian servicemen on ground

NATO’s multiple rocket launcher (MRL) experts appear to be directing the actions of Ukrainian troops “on the ground,” which is fraught with certain consequences, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov stated.

“NATO instructors and MRL gunners are already, apparently, directing the actions of the Armed Forces of Ukraine and the national battalions ‘on the ground’,” Lavrov said in his article for the Izvestia newspaper, adding that he hoped that “there are responsible politicians among the Europeans who are aware of the consequences this is fraught with.”

He noted that the armed forces of Russia, as well as the Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics (DPR and LPR), are confidently solving tasks within the framework of Moscow’s special military operation in Ukraine.

“Losing on the battlefield, the Ukrainian regime and its Western patrons do not disdain to stage bloody dramatizations in order to demonize our country in international public view,” the Russian foreign minister continued.

According to the Russian foreign minister, Europe is suffering from sanctions imposed against Russia the most, and is using up its arsenals, supplying weapons to Kiev without requiring an account of who controls the arms and where these weapons end up.

Private army Wagner played central role in Russia’s Lysychansk capture: UK

Private military company Wagner group, sometimes known as Vladimir Putin’s private army, played a central role in Russia’s capture of the towns of Popasna and Lysychansk, the United Kingdom’s defence ministry has announced.

In its latest intelligence briefing, the ministry stated Russia was using Wagner “to reinforce front-line forces and to mitigate manning shortfalls and casualties.”

“Wagner are lowering recruitment standards, hiring convicts and formerly blacklisted individuals. Very limited training is made available to new recruits,” the briefing said.

It added that this was potentially impacting Russian military effectiveness.

FM: China not a party to Ukrainian crisis, but will not sit idly by

China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi reportedly said during a phone call with his Hungarian counterpart Peter Szijjártó Beijing is not a party to Ukrainian crisis, but will not sit idly by.

Yi and Szijjarto talked over the phone on Sunday about bilateral ties between the countries and the Ukraine crisis, according to a report by China’s Xinhua news agency.

“China is not a party to the Ukrainian crisis, but we are not going to be an indifferent spectator and, moreover, we are not going to add fuel to the fire, we have always been adamant and consistent in encouraging peace and negotiations,” the Chinese diplomat said.

The lessons from the Ukraine crisis are “profound and worth well learning for all sides”, Wang noted, adding that in the long run, the parties should discuss building a balanced, effective, and sustainable European security framework, so as to realise lasting peace and security.

Russian journalist who staged TV protest arrested, later released

Russian police detained the journalist Marina Ovsyannikova, who in March interrupted a live television broadcast to denounce the military action in Ukraine, her lawyer stated.

No official statement has been made, but her entourage posted a message on the journalist’s Telegram account on Sunday, according to Agence France-Presse.

“Marina has been detained. There is no information on where she is,” it read.

The message included three photos of her being led by two police officers to a white van, after apparently having been stopped while cycling.

Ovsyannikova also posted images of herself and two dogs on her Facebook page, later revealing she had been released.

“Went for a walk with the dogs, just stepped outside the gate, people in uniform approached me. Now I’m sitting in Krasnoselsky ministry of internal affairs,” she stated.

Three hours later, Ovsyannikova said she had been released.

“I’m home. Everything is okay,” she wrote, adding, “But now I know it’s always best to bring a suitcase and passport if you go out.”

EU chief executive heads to Azerbaijan in search of gas deal

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen will travel to Baku on Monday to seek more natural gas from Azerbaijan, the EU’s executive announced, as the European Union seeks to reduce its reliance on Russian energy.

“Amid Russia’s continued weaponisation of its energy supplies, diversification of our energy imports is a priority for the EU,” the Commission wrote on Twitter, adding, “President von der Leyen and (Energy) Commissioner Kadri Simson will be tomorrow in Azerbaijan to further strengthen the cooperation.”

According to a draft document seen by the Reuters news agency on July 14, the Commission has proposed to EU countries a deal with Azerbaijan to increase imports of natural gas and support the expansion of a pipeline to do this.

Lavrov slams Macron’s idea of a European community as ‘anti-Russian’

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has called the French president’s proposal for a “European political community” a deliberately confrontational idea with anti-Russian intentions, according to state news agency TASS.

Emmanuel Macron’s proposed community would be a framework for European Union members and democratic European non-members to discuss shared interests. Its overriding goal would be “stabilising the European continent”, France24 reported Macron having said in June. This community would encompass EU membership candidates like Ukraine and possibly ex-member the United Kingdom.

But TASS reports that Lavrov told Izvestia newspaper there would be “no particular financial or economic benefits, but there will be demands for full solidarity with the EU on its anti-Russian actions”.

“This is no longer an ‘or-or’ principle, but a ‘who is not with is against us’ principle,” TASS quoted Lavrov as having said.

“Macron himself explained what this community is: the EU will invite all European countries to join, from Iceland to Ukraine, but not Russia. I will point it out right here that we don’t need to go there, but the statement itself, which unveils the nature of this deliberately confrontational, dividing idea, is noteworthy,” he added.

Zelensky: Over 60 prosecutors, state security employees work against Ukraine

Zelenskyy has followed up on decrees in which he removed the State Security Service head and his Prosecutor General by saying more than 60 of their employees were working against Ukraine in Russian-occupied territory.

He stated 651 criminal proceedings had been registered relating to high treason and collaboration by employees of prosecutor’s offices, pretrial investigation bodies and other law enforcement agencies.

“In particular, more than 60 employees of the prosecutor’s office and the Security Service of Ukraine remained in the occupied territory and are working against our state,” he added.

He said that such crimes raised “very serious questions” for the relevant leaders and added, “Each of these questions will receive a proper answer.”

If bridge linking Crimea and Russia is hit, ‘consequences will be obvious’: Medvedev

Dmitry Medvedev, the deputy head of Russia’s Security Council chaired by Vladimir Putin, has responded to Ukrainian officials’ statements that Kyiv may strike the bridge linking Crimea and Russia, warning that that would trigger devastating consequences for the Ukrainian leadership.

“If that happens, the consequences will be obvious: They will momentarily face Doomsday,” Medvedev said, adding, “It would be very hard for them to hide.”

Medvedev, who once was touted by the West as more liberal compared to Putin, noted Russia will press its action in Ukraine until fulfilling its stated goal of “denazifying” and “demilitarising” the country.

He predicted that the continuing fighting will “undoubtedly lead to the collapse of the existing regime” in Kyiv.

Ukraine’s president fires security agency chief and prosecutor general

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky has issued executive orders dismissing the State Security Service head and the Prosecutor General.

The orders dismissing domestic security chief Ivan Bakanov, a childhood friend of Zelensky, and Prosecutor General Iryna Venediktova, who leads the effort to prosecute Russian war crimes in Ukraine, were published on the president’s official website.

No reason was immediately given for the sackings.

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