Thursday, August 11, 2022

Live Update: Russia’s “Special Operation” in Ukraine; Day 161

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 Russia creating strike group aimed at Zelensky’s hometown

Russia has started creating a military strike force aimed at taking President Volodymyr Zelensky’s hometown of Kryvyi Rih, Ukraine’s military has said, as it warned that Moscow could be preparing new offensive operations in the country’s south.

In its regular update on the war in the south, Ukraine’s southern military command described the situation as tense and said Russia attacked along the frontline on Tuesday.

“[Russia] has begun creating a strike group in the Kryvyi Rih direction. It’s also quite likely that the enemy is preparing a hostile counter-offensive with the subsequent plan of getting to the administrative boundary of [the] Kherson region,” it added.

The steel-producing city of Kryvyi Rih where Zelensky grew up lies around 50 km (30 miles) from the southern frontline.

Russian forces currently control swaths of Ukraine’s south that they captured in the early phases of Moscow’s invasion, but Kyiv has noted it will mount a counter-offensive to recapture those territories. Ukraine said on Tuesday its forces had already recaptured 53 villages in the Russian-occupied Kherson region.


UN will launch fact-finding mission after 53 POWs killed in prison

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said he will launch a fact-finding mission into an attack in the front-line Ukranian town of Olenivka that killed prisoners held by Moscow-backed separatists.

Russia and Ukraine, who have exchanged blame over the reported deaths of 53 prisoners, both requested an investigation, Guterres told reporters.

He added the terms of reference for the mission, which would need agreement from Russia and Ukraine, were being prepared.


Switzerland imposes sanctions on Russian gold in line with EU

Switzerland’s Federal Council has imposed further sanctions against Russia over the war in Ukraine, in line with the European Union’s latest measures on gold and gold products.

The Council announced that it had made two new exceptions with respect to transactions related to agricultural products and oil supplies to third countries, which the EU has as well, in order to avoid any disruptions in payment channels.


Russia ready for peace on own terms: Kremlin

Ukraine can end the ongoing conflict at any time by conceding to Russia’s non-negotiable terms, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Wednesday.

“Russia is ready [for a peace deal], the Ukrainian side is well-aware of our terms. One way or another, they will be fulfilled,” the official told journalists.

Peskov went on to explain that back in late March the two countries were close to settling their differences in a way that was acceptable to Russia, but the draft agreement prepared during a meeting in Istanbul was torpedoed by the Ukrainian side.

Kiev broke off talks with Moscow after accusing Russia of committing war crimes, an allegation that Russia said was based on fabricated evidence. The Ukrainian leadership has since insisted that negotiations can only be resumed after Russia is defeated on the battlefield with the help of Western weapons.


Russian official says era of ‘constructive cooperation’ with West has ended

A Russian foreign ministry official has stated the era of constructive cooperation between Moscow and Western countries is “irrevocably over”, regardless of the outcome of the war in Ukraine.

“Regardless of the duration and outcome of Russia’s special military operation in Ukraine, we can already state now that the thirty-year era of generally constructive, though not problematic, cooperation with the West is irrevocably over,” Alexey Drobinin, the director of the foreign policy planning department of the Russian Foreign Ministry, said in an article published in the ministry’s International Affairs journal.

Drobinin added that Russia has entered an “acute phase of confrontation with an aggressive alliance of unfriendly states led by the United States”.

“The enemy’s aim is to inflict a strategic defeat on our country and to eliminate it as a geopolitical competitor,” he continued.


Russian-installed official says Ukraine used Western arms to attack nuclear plant

A Russian-installed official in Ukraine has accused Kyiv’s forces of repeatedly using Western arms to attack Europe’s largest nuclear power plant, which is now controlled by Moscow’s troops.

Yevgeny Balitsky, the head of the Russian-installed administration of the Zaporizhia region, said that the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) was due to visit the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant. There was no immediate comment from the IAEA on Balitsky’s claim.

“We are ready to show how the Russian military is guarding the plant, and how Ukraine, which receives weapons from the West, uses those weapons including drones to attack the nuclear power plant,” Balitsky added.

The Zaporizhzhia plant, which has two of six reactors operating, has been the subject of repeated warnings from Ukraine, the West and Russia. It was shelled on March 4 in an attack Russia and Ukraine blamed on each other.

Washington has accused Moscow of using the site as a “nuclear shield” in attacks on Ukrainian forces.


Zelensky calls on China to “join united world” and oppose Russia

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has appealed to China “to join the united world” and oppose Russia amid the war in Ukraine.

The president discussed China when answering questions from students during a virtual address to the Australian National University on Wednesday.

Zelensky admitted Beijing’s “neutrality is better” than if China would join Russia, believing “the nation, the people of China will do the prudent choice.”

He went on to say it is “important that China wouldn’t help Russia.”

Speaking about the condition of Russia-Ukraine relations in the future, Zelensky stated it “depends only on Russia” and that “the question belongs only to them.”


Inspection of first Ukraine grain shipment completed: Ukrainian official

Oleksandr Kubrakov, Ukraine’s infrastructure minister, noted the delegation from the Joint Coordination Centre (JCC) has completed its check of the first grain-carrying ship to leave Ukrainian ports in wartime.

“First ship RAZONI carrying corn was successfully inspected by delegation from a special Joint Coordination Center. The ship is ready to continue its journey to the port of Tripoli in Lebanon,” Kubrakov tweeted.


Rail linking Kherson and Crimea ‘highly unlikely’ to remain operational

A rail link connecting Kherson with Crimea is “highly unlikely” to remain operational due to a Ukrainian attack on a Russian ammunition train, the UK Ministry of Defence says.

In its daily briefing it also announced there will “likely” be an increase in civilians attempting to flee Kherson and the surrounding areas as hostilities continue and food shortages worsen.

“This will create pressure on transport nodes and routes, likely resulting in measures to control movements being implemented,” the ministry added in its daily brifing.


G7 considers “prohibition” on transportation of Russian oil globally unless purchased at or below set price

The G7 is considering further options to stop Russia “profiting from its war of aggression and to curtail Russia’s ability to wage war,” according to a statement from the forum’s foreign ministers on Tuesday.

Such options could include “a comprehensive prohibition of all services that enable transportation of Russian seaborne crude oil and petroleum products globally” unless the oil was purchased at or below a set price, the statement added.

The foreign ministers stated Russia is using energy as “a tool of geopolitical coercion” and that they would work together to reduce G7 countries demand on Russian energy, while protecting the most vulnerable groups from the impacts of supply disruptions and rising prices.


US slaps sanctions on Russian businessmen, heads of freed Ukrainian regions

The US authorities have imposed restrictions against a number of Russian entrepreneurs, officials, heads of the leadership of liberated Ukrainian regions and other persons, according to statements released by the Department of State and the Department of the Treasury on Tuesday.

In particular, sanctions have been imposed against businessmen Andrey Guryev, Viktor Rashnikov, Anton Urusov and Natalya Popova, as well as the Olympic champion in rhythmic gymnastics Alina Kabaeva, according to documents. They are regarded as representatives of “elites close to the Kremlin.”

Guryev is the founder and former Deputy Chairman of PhosAgro, Russia’s producer of fertilizers. His son has also been put on the sanctions list. Rashnikov is the majority owner and chairman of the Board of Directors of MMK. Restrictions have also been imposed against the company. Kabaeva is the current head of the National Media Group, Popova is First Deputy Director of Innopraktika, a technology company in Russia, whereas Urusov is Vice President of Russian Direct Investment Fund, which was sanctioned earlier, according to the Department of the Treasury’s statement.

Three oligarchs have been put on the sanctions list, among them Dmitry Pumpyansky, Andrey Melnichenko, and Alexander Ponomarenko, according to the Department of State.

Restrictions have also been imposed against Vladimir Saldo, head of the Kherson Region’s Military-Civilian Administration, his deputy Kirill Stremousov, head of the government that have been formed in the region, Sergey Yeliseyev, as well as Mariupol Mayor in the DPR Konstantin Ivashchenko. Those persons undermine the political stability in Ukraine, according to the Department of State.

The US State Department also announced it was placing visa restrictions on 893 Russian officials and members of the military for playing a role in actions against Ukraine, as well as 31 foreign officials from unnamed nations over support for Russia’s annexation of Crimea.

The department was also imposing sanctions on 24 Russian defense and technology companies in an effort to “further isolate Russia’s defense and high-technology industries and limit their contributions to Moscow’s war machine,” U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a separate statement.


US responsible for Ukrainian ‘war crimes’: Russian MoD

Washington bears “political, criminal, and moral responsibility” for “war crimes” committed by the Ukrainian military, Russia’s Defense Ministry said on Tuesday.

The statement came in response to an interview by a top Ukrainian spy, who revealed that Kiev consults with Washington before using US-made HIMARS multiple launch rocket systems and that Washington actually has veto power over decision-making.

“All this irrefutably proves that Washington, contrary to the statements of the White House and the Pentagon, is directly involved in the conflict in Ukraine. It is the Biden administration that is directly responsible for all the Kiev-approved missile attacks on residential areas and civilian infrastructure in the settlements across Donbass and other regions that caused mass civilian casualties,” Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov has stated.

According to Moscow, US-supplied HIMARS systems have repeatedly been used by Kiev forces to target facilities that were not legitimate military targets. Arguably the most dire recent example of this strategy was an attack on a penal colony in Elenovka in the Donetsk People’s Republic, which was housing Ukrainian POWs, including fighters with the notorios neo-Nazi Azov regiment. The attack left at least 50 prisoners dead and another 73 injured.

“The Joe Biden administration, together with Zelensky, bears political, criminal, and moral responsibility for the massacre in Elenovka and other war crimes in Ukraine,” Konashenkov added.

The explosive interview with a Ukrainian senior intelligence official, Major General Vadim Skibitsky, was published by The Telegraph newspaper on Monday. The spy revealed Kiev’s troops were getting feedback from Washington and London before launching HIMARS rockets. This allows “Washington to stop any potential attacks if they were unhappy with the intended target,” The Telegraph noted.


Zelensky says fighting in parts of Donbas region is ‘just hell’

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has stated that despite US supplies of rocket artillery, Kyiv’s forces could not yet overcome Russian advantages in heavy guns and personnel.

“This is very much felt in combat, especially in the Donbas. … It is just hell there. Words cannot describe it,” he added in a late-night address.


First grain ship to leave Ukraine anchors off Turkish coast

The first grain-carrying ship to leave Ukrainian ports in wartime has safely anchored off Turkey’s coast.

The first ship, the Razoni, carrying 26,527 tonnes of corn to Lebanon, anchored near the Bosphorus entrance from the Black Sea at around 18:00 GMT, some 36 hours after departing from Ukraine’s Odesa port.

A delegation from the Joint Coordination Centre (JCC) in Istanbul, where Russian, Ukrainian, Turkish and UN personnel work, is expected to inspect the ship at 07:00 GMT on Wednesday, according to Turkey’s Defence Ministry.


Ukraine has recaptured 53 settlements in Kherson region: Governor

Ukraine has recaptured 53 settlements in the mostly Russian-occupied southern region of Kherson since the start of Moscow’s invasion, the regional governor has claimed.

Russia captured swaths of southern Ukraine in the first phase of its invasion. Ukraine is now pledging to conduct a major counter-offensive to retake land and has used Western-made long-range weapons to hit Russian supply lines.

“As of now, 53 settlements have been confirmed as liberated,” acting governor Dmytro Butriy stated on national television.

That figure was nine settlements more than the number he gave on Monday, which appeared to indicate a quickening tempo of Ukrainian gains in the region.


Canada says imposing further sanctions on Russia

Canada has announced it was imposing more sanctions on Russia that would impact 43 military officials and 17 entities.

“The Russian war machine’s egregious actions will not be forgotten, and Canada will continue to work with its partners in the international community to hold it to account,” Canadian Foreign Minister Melanie Joly said in a statement.

Canada has imposed sanctions on more than 1,150 individuals and entities in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24.


UK adds two new designations under Russia sanctions regime

The British government announced it had sanctioned two former board members of oil company Rosneft: Didier Casimiro and Zeljko Runje.

The British sanction list said both were now subject to an asset freeze for “obtaining a benefit from or supporting the government of Russia by working as a manager of a government of Russia-affiliated entity”.


Lebanon prosecutor allows departure of ship accused by Ukraine of stealing grain

Lebanon’s top prosecutor has lifted his seizure order on a ship docked in Lebanon accused by Ukraine of carrying stolen flour and barley and allowed it to sail after finding “no criminal offence committed”, a senior judicial source told Reuters.

The ship, the Laodicea, remains unable to sail for the time being due to another seizure order issued by a judge in the northern city of Tripoli, where the ship is docked, on Monday, the source noted.

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