Saturday, July 13, 2024

Live Update: Russia’s “Special Operation” in Ukraine; Day 167

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:

Crimea authorities say one person killed in airbase blast

One person has been killed and five others injured by a blast at a military airbase at Saky in the Russian-controlled Crimean Peninsula, according to Crimean authorities.

The Moscow defence ministry announced earlier that the explosion had been a detonation of aviation ammunition, not the result of any attack.

Russia: Crimea airbase blasts detonation of ammunition

Russia’s defence ministry has said that explosions at a Russian military airbase in Crimea were caused by a detonation of aviation ammunition and that there had been no casualties, according to the RIA Novosti news agency.

It added there had been no attack and no military equipment had been damaged, after loud explosions and black smoke rising from the direction of a Russian military airbase at Novofedorivka on the annexed Crimean peninsula were reported.

Ukrainian military carries out its deepest strike yet in Russian-occupied area

The Ukrainian military has carried out what appears to have been their deepest strike yet into Russian-occupied regions of the country.

“This morning there was a good news, there was a very powerful detonation in Henichesk region,” Serhii Khlan, adviser to the head of Kherson Civil Military Administration, stated on Ukrainian television Tuesday.

Henichesk is in southern Kherson region, close to Crimea, and about 200 kilometers, or about 125 miles, from the nearest Ukrainian front line.

Khlan suggested that the target had been on the railway between Henichesk and Melitopol.

“We are still waiting for the official confirmation of our Armed Forces, from the General Staff, but it’s a very pleasant news. The detonation was heard during 1.5-2 hours on this railway station, which connects Crimea and Melitopol,” he added.

Head of Ukrainian state-owned nuclear power company warns only one power line to complex is operational

On Tuesday, the head of the Ukrainian state-owned nuclear power company Energoatom warned that Ukraine and Europe could face another Fukishima if the power supply to the massive Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power plant is further disrupted.

Speaking to CNN on Tuesday in Kyiv, Petro Kotin said that only one power line to the massive complex was now operational after shelling damaged the lines in the past few days.

“If there is no connection to the grid, then you cannot provide electricity from the outside, then the diesel generators will start. But everything will depend on the reliability of those generators. … This is a dangerous situation, because if those stop you could have a disaster of melting nuclear materials,” he stated, comparing the potential fallout to the Fukishima disaster in Japan.

The Fukishima plant’s reactor overheated when the backup power supply failed after the impact of the Tsunami in 2011.

Kotin added that Energoatom has supplies ready to go into the facility for repairs, but they haven’t been able to enter the site.

The Zaporizhzhia plant occupies an extensive site on the Dnipro River. It has continued operating at reduced capacity since Russian forces captured it early in March, with Ukrainian technicians remaining at work.

On Sunday, Ukraine’s Energoatom released a statement that said that one worker had been injured by Russian shelling around the facility on Saturday.

Kotin noted that Russian soldiers have not been firing from inside the large complex, but close to its outskirts. He added Russia continues to occupy Zaporizhizhia with around 500 soldiers and hardware and that Russian soldiers moved assets into two special blast bunkers in recent days.

There are around 1000 employees still on the site, according to Kotin, who have kept communications lines open but are working under constant stress of the occupying force including beatings and threats.

“If the situation worsens, we need to think about our population at the plant. We are planning on how, during war conditions, we will be able to evacuate the personnel,” Kotin continued.

“Great release of radioactivity could happen from there. There could be a cloud, a radioactive cloud,” he said, adding that the international community needs to work quickly to demilitarize the zone.

Kotin told CNN that the ultimate plan of the Russians is to disconnect the plant from powering Ukraine and connect it to the grid to power occupied Crimea.

Like other Ukrainian officials, he blames Russia for shelling the complex – he said the distance of the incoming strikes suggested Russian positions.

Russia’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, Maria Zakharova, has accused Ukraine of “taking Europe hostage” by shelling Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant, according to Russian state news agency TASS.

Over 10.5mn people have crossed border from Ukraine: UN

More than 10.5 million people have crossed the border from Ukraine since Russia’s invasion on February 24, the United Nations Refugee agency UNHCR has announced on its website.

Russia says it destroyed HIMARS ammunition depot in Ukraine

Russia’s defence ministry announced that Russian forces had destroyed an ammunition depot storing US-made HIMARS missiles and M777 howitzers near Uman in Ukraine, the RIA Novosti news agency has reported.

Problems remain with Kaliningrad transit despite EU deal

Russia’s Baltic exclave of Kaliningrad is bumping up against quotas imposed by the European Union for sanctioned goods that it can import across Lithuania from mainland Russia or Belarus, the region’s governor has said.

Kaliningrad Governor Anton Alikhanov estimated that the limits permit Russia to ship about 500,000 tonnes of sanctioned goods in total in both directions each year.

But he stated some quotas had already been reached, making it impossible, for instance, for Kaliningrad to import cement from Belarus – which used to account for about 200,000 tonnes a year.

Moscow says trade with its outlying territory should not be subject to limits.

“Today, we have already exhausted the limits set by Europeans for the transportation of goods by rail: for instance, certain kinds of iron, steel, oil products, fertilisers, antifreeze and timber,” Russian news agencies quoted Alikhanov as saying at a meeting of the Valdai Discussion Club.

Kremlin says Zelensky call for ban on all Russians is irrational

The Kremlin has dismissed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s call for a travel ban on all Russians as irrational, saying that Europe would ultimately have to decide if it wanted to pay the bills for Zelensky’s “whims”.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov stated there was no chance Russians could be isolated from the rest of the world.

In an interview with The Washington Post, Zelensky had called on Western leaders to stop allowing Russians to travel to their countries as punishment for President Vladimir Putin’s decision to send troops into Ukraine.

Ukrainian resistance grows in Russian-occupied areas

In a growing challenge to Russia’s grip on occupied areas of southeastern Ukraine, rebel forces loyal to Kyiv are killing pro-Moscow officials, blowing up bridges and trains, and helping the Ukrainian military by identifying key targets.

The spreading resistance has eroded Kremlin control of those areas and threatened its plans to hold referendums in various cities as a move towards annexation by Russia.

“Our goal is to make life unbearable for the Russian occupiers and use any means to derail their plans,” stated Andriy, a 32-year-old coordinator of the armed movement in the southern Kherson region.

The resistance group he is affiliated with, called Zhovta Strichka or “Yellow Ribbon”, takes its name from one of the two national colours of Ukraine, and its members use ribbons of that hue to mark potential targets for their attacks.

Ukraine says its troops advancing towards Izyum

Around Kharkiv in the northeast, Ukrainian troops captured the town of Dovhenke from Russian forces and were advancing towards Izyum, Ukrainian presidential adviser Oleksiy Arestovych says in a video posted on YouTube.

The daily battlefield report from Ukraine’s military general staff said towns north, east and southeast of Kharkiv came under tank, artillery and rocket fire.

“The situation is very interesting. Ukraine’s forces are moving very successfully. Attempts by Russia to regain lost ground were not successful. Ukraine may end up encircling them,” Arestovych added.

Russia continued to reinforce defence in southern Ukraine over weekend: UK

Russia continued to focus on reinforcing its defences in southern Ukraine over the weekend, while also maintaining attacks on Kyiv’s positions in the Donetsk region in the east, Britain has announced.

Bakhmut has been Moscow’s most successful axis in eastern Ukraine’s Donbas over the last 30 days, although Russia has only managed to advance about 10km (6 miles) in the region, the British defence ministry said in a regular intelligence update.

“In other Donbas sectors where Russia was attempting to break through, its forces have not gained more than 3km during this 30 day period; almost certainly significantly less than planned,” the update added.

Two more grain ships sail from Ukraine: Turkey

Two more grain-carrying ships have sailed from Ukraine’s Chornomorsk port, Turkey’s defence ministry has said, as part of a deal to unblock Ukrainian sea exports.

The Ocean Lion, which departed for South Korea, is carrying 64,720 tonnes of corn, it added, while the Rahmi Yagci is carrying 5,300 tonnes of sunflower meal to Istanbul.

German economy to lose billions in added value over war, high energy prices

Germany’s economy will lose more than 260 billion euros ($265 billion) in added value by 2030 due to the Ukraine war and high energy prices, spelling negative effects for the labour market, according to a study by the Institute for Employment Research (IAB).

In comparison with expectations for a peaceful Europe, Germany’s price-adjusted gross domestic product (GDP) will be 1.7 percent lower next year and there will be about 240,000 fewer people in employment, said the study.

The employment level is expected to stay at around this level until 2026, when expansive measures will gradually begin to outweigh the negative effects and lead to a plus of about 60,000 gainfully employed in 2030.

Zelensky calls on Western countries to ban all Russian citizens

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Western countries should ban all Russian citizens from entering their country.

In an interview with The Washington Post published on Monday, Zelensky stated, “the most important sanctions are to close the borders — because the Russians are taking away someone else’s land.”

The Ukrainian president added Russians should “live in their own world until they change their philosophy.”

Asked whether such a measure would unfairly impact those who left the country because they disagreed with the Kremlin, Zelensky noted the distinction did not matter.

“Whichever kind of Russian… make them go to Russia,” he said.

“They’ll say, ‘This [war] has nothing to do with us. The whole population can’t be held responsible, can it?’ It can. The population picked this government and they’re not fighting it, not arguing with it, not shouting at it,” Zelensky told the Washington Post.

“You’re telling the whole world that it must live by your rules. Then go and live there. This is the only way to influence Vladimir Putin,” he added.

World Bank announces additional $4.5bn in Ukraine aid

The World Bank has announced it was mobilising another $4.5bn in financial support for war-torn Ukraine.

The funds will help Kyiv pay for services and pensions, key to easing the economic effects of the Russian invasion, the bank said in a statement.

“Ukraine needs continued government services, including health, education, and social protection to prevent further deterioration in living conditions and poverty,” World Bank President David Malpass stated.

Washington says Moscow must not be allowed to bully Ukraine

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has said that Russia must not be allowed to bully Ukraine, warning it will be “open season” around the world unless Moscow’s invasion is checked.

“If we allow a big country to bully a smaller one, to simply invade it and take its territory, then it’s going to be open season, not just in Europe but around the world,” Blinken stated during a visit to South Africa.

Blinken is on a tour of several African nations that will also see him visit the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Rwanda in the coming days in what is seen as a bid to win support from countries on the continent over the war in Ukraine.

South Africa abstained from a United Nations vote in March denouncing the invasion of Ukraine –  a stance that drew criticism from the US and its Western allies – and like several other African countries has resisted calls to condemn Russia over its offensive.

Russian weapons in Ukraine made from Western parts: Report

More than 450 foreign-made components have been found in Russian weapons recovered in Ukraine, evidence that Moscow acquired critical technology from companies in the United States, Europe and Asia in the years before the invasion, according to a new report.

Since the start of the war five months ago, the Ukrainian military has captured or recovered from the battlefield intact or partially damaged Russian weapons.

When disassembled, 27 of these weapons systems, ranging from cruise missiles to air defence, were found to rely predominantly on Western components, according to research by the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) defence think-tank.

US announces additional $1 billion in additional security assistance for Ukraine

The US Defense Department Monday announced a $1 billion package of additional weapons and security assistance for Ukraine in the latest round of military aid.

It is “the largest single drawdown of US arms and equipment” since August 2021 using presidential authorities to drawdown from US military stockpiles, according to a Pentagon statement. This marks the eighteenth drawdown by the Pentagon.

The package for the first time will have munitions for the National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile Systems (NASAMS), a US-Norwegian air defense system the Ukrainians need for shooting down Russian cruise missiles aimed at population centers.

The transfer of NASAMS itself could still be some days away according to US defense official. The first system to arrive is expected to be from Norway which can get it to Ukraine quicker than the US.

This assistance package focuses heavily on additional ammunition and weapons which Ukraine forces have used successfully against Russian forces in eastern Ukraine. There is additional ammunition for High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS), 75,000 rounds of 155mm artillery ammunition and 1,000 Javelin anti-tank weapons among key items. This is the first transfer of Javelin’s announced since June. There are also hundreds of AT4 anti-armor weapons included.

Pentagon official: Russia has had between 70,000 to 80,000 casualties so far in Ukraine-Russia conflict

Russia has had about 70,000 to 80,000 casualties so far in the ongoing conflict between Ukraine and Russia, Colin Kahl, Defense Department under secretary for policy, said during an on-camera briefing at the Pentagon on Monday.

This figure includes both Russian forces killed and wounded in action.

“I think it’s safe to suggest that the Russians have probably taken 70 or 80,000 casualties in the less than six months. Now that is a combination of killed in action and wounded in action, that number might be a little lower, little higher, but I think that’s kind of in the ballpark,” Kahl continued.

Kahl noted that number of casualties from Russian forces is “remarkable” considering Russia has “achieved none of Vladimir Putin’s objectives” since invading Ukraine at the end of February.

“The Ukrainian morale and will to fight is unquestioned, and much higher I think than the average will to fight on the Russian side, so I think that gives the Ukrainians a significant advantage,” Kahl added.

Ukraine: Russia committing “nuclear terrorism” against Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant

Russia is continuing acts of “nuclear terrorism” on the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant and its personnel, Dmytro Lubinets, Ukrainian Parliamentary Commissioner for Human Rights said.

Lubinets stated that according to “International norms, an attack on a facility where nuclear or radiological materials are used is considered an act of nuclear terrorism. ‘Nuclear terrorism’ also includes actions aimed at disrupting, sabotaging, or manipulating operations at the plant that could lead to the release of radioactivity.”

Lubinets called on the United Nations Secretary General, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the international community to take “possible measures to send a security mission to the Zaporizhzhia NPP, to completely demilitarize the territory of the NPP, and to provide security guarantees to the employees of the nuclear plant and residents of the city of Enerhodar for the maintenance of the plant.”

He added that he sent letters to international organizations with his appeal.

Russia and Ukraine have traded blame for recent artillery and rocket fire around the nuclear plant in central Ukraine, which UN Secretary General António Guterres described as “suicidal.”

On Saturday, the director general of the IAEA, Rafael Mariano Grossi, said he was extremely concerned by the shelling “which underlines the very real risk of a nuclear disaster that could threaten public health and the environment in Ukraine and beyond.”

Pentagon acknowledges sending previously undisclosed anti-radar missiles to Ukraine

The Pentagon announced that the US has sent anti-radar missiles for Ukrainian aircraft to target Russian radar systems. It marks the first time the Pentagon has acknowledged sending the previously undisclosed missile to Ukraine.

Colin Kahl, the under secretary of Defense for Policy, said at a news briefing that the US had sent “a number” of the missiles without specifying how many the US has provided or when exactly they were sent. Kahl also did not explicitly say what type of anti-radiation missile.

A defense official told CNN the type of missile sent was the AGM-88 High-Speed Anti-Radiation Missile (HARM).

Produced by Raytheon, HARMs have a range in excess of 30 miles (more than 48 kilometers), according to the US Air Force, making them one of the longer-range weapons the US has provided to Ukraine. The missiles can be used to target Russian anti-aircraft radar systems, such as the S-400, which have made it very difficult for the Ukrainian Air Force to operate over large swaths of Ukrainian airspace. The missiles can also target Russian counter-battery radars, which Russia uses to target Ukrainian artillery.

Kahl stated the missiles had been sent over “in recent [Presidential Drawdown Authority] packages,” but the five most recent packages, dating back to July 1, make no mention of HARMs.

“In the near term, we’ve been doing lots of things to make Ukraine’s existing air force stay in the air and be more capable,” Kahl added.

He then pointed to the spare parts for Mig-29s the US helped send into Ukraine to keep the Soviet-era fighters flying. Kahl then mentioned the missiles, saying they “can have effects on Russian radars and other things.”

The Ukrainians have not publicly acknowledged receiving or using HARMs.

In recent days, open source reports have shown the remains of what appear to be the fin of a HARM missile that targeted a Russian position in Ukraine.

“Huge consequences” for Ukraine and Europe if Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant is compromised

Ukraine on Monday warned of catastrophic consequences if anything were to happen to the Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, and said that Kremlin’s forces are preventing safety experts from visiting Europe’s largest nuclear power plant.

“What will happen in the radius of 40-50 kilometers from the station, that’s absolutely not comparable even to Chernobyl or to Fukushima,” stated Yevhenii Tsymbaliuk, Ukraine’s ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna.

Tsymbaliuk added Ukraine would like to see a delegation of experts from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the United Nations visit the station to monitor its status but that Russia’s military actions in Ukraine are making such a trip “impossible.”

“We will use all possible channels of diplomacy to bring IAEA and UN closer to conducting this mission. We really need it urgently,” Tsymbaliuk noted at a news conference Monday.

His comments come after Russia and Ukraine traded blame for recent artillery and rocket fire around the nuclear plant in central Ukraine, which UN Secretary General António Guterres described as “suicidal.”

Meanwhile, a Russian representative claimed that Moscow sent out a diplomatic note stating that it is ready to assist the IAEA in a visit to the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in central Ukraine.

Russian state media RIA Novosti reported Mikhail Ulyanov, Russia’s representative to International Organizations in Vienna, saying that a diplomatic note was sent out on Aug. 4 and distributed on Aug. 5.

According to Ulyanov, the note also said Russia is interested in the IAEA taking into account criminal actions conducted by Kyiv and what he claimed is the campaign of disinformation that the Zelensky regime has launched.

On Saturday, IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi stressed that he was extremely concerned by the shelling “which underlines the very real risk of a nuclear disaster that could threaten public health and the environment in Ukraine and beyond.”

Ukrainian nuclear energy generator says rocket struck close to spent fuel storage

As Russia and Ukraine blame each other for recent rocket and missile attacks close to the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, the head of Ukraine’s state nuclear energy company says one strike Sunday was close to the processed fuel storage area.

Petro Kotin, Chair of Energoatom, stated on Ukrainian television: “This is very dangerous, because the rockets hit 10 to 20 meters away from the storage, but if they had hit the containers with the processed fuel, it would be a radiation accident.”

Kotin suggested that if one container was hit “it will be a local accident on the territory of the plant and nearby territory. If its 2-3 containers — the affected area will increase.”

He also added that during the shelling communication lines between the nuclear plant and the hydro-electric power plant and the Ukrainian energy system had been ruptured.

“As of now Zaporizhzhia NPP is only connected to the Ukrainian energy system with just one communication line. If all the lines are damaged, the plant will transfer to the so-called “black-out” mode, meaning become completely de-energized. And this situation will be very dangerous for keeping fuel in nuclear reactors in a safe condition,” the official continued.

Kotin said that Russian forces must be expelled from the plant and a demilitarized zone should be created on the territory of the plant.

“Since the beginning of the occupation we were saying that а security mission of peacekeepers should be present there, including the IAEA experts and other security organisations. The presence of peacekeepers in this zone and giving them the control of the plant first and then giving back the control to the Ukrainian side would have solved the problem,” he continued.

Kotin repeated Ukrainian claims that Russia had moved weapons into the plant’s power units, adding, “There are 14 units of heavy military equipment in the first power unit. There are 6 vehicles in the second engine room and we don’t know what is inside those vehicles. There’s heavy weaponry as well.”

He also claimed that Russian troops had occupied all the shelters at the power plant and workers had nowhere to go when shelling occurred.

Kremlin says prerequisites for meeting between Putin and Zelensky “not there yet”

The necessary prerequisites for a meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky are “not there yet,” the Kremlin said on a conference call Monday.

“As for the summit meeting between Presidents Putin and Zelensky, it is possible only after all the homework is done by the delegations of negotiators,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said when asked about the proposal of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to organize negotiations between Putin and Zelensky.

“This element is also missing. Therefore, the necessary prerequisites for the meeting mentioned by Mr. Recep Tayyip Erdogan are not there yet,” he added.

According to the Kremlin, the Ukrainian delegation “went off the radar” and there are currently no peace negotiations between Moscow and Kyiv.

Russia’s so-called “special military operation” continues until the set goals are completed, Peskov continued.

Responding to Zelensky’s warning against future negotiations if Russia conducts referendums in Russian-occupied areas of Ukraine, Peskov stated Zelensky should address his own citizens, not Russians, as they are the ones who want to hold a referendum.

“We are not the ones holding the referendums,” Peskov said, adding: “[President Zelensky] needs to address his own citizens and ask why there are so many of them who would not want to live in his country.”

Zelensky on Sunday discounted the possibility of future negotiations if Russia conducts referendums in Russian-occupied areas of Ukraine.

UN Secretary General describes shelling around Ukrainian nuclear plant as “suicidal”

United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres has described the recent artillery and rocket fire around the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant in central Ukraine as “suicidal.”

“Any attack on nuclear power plants is a suicidal thing,” Guterres told reporters in Tokyo.

“I hope that these attacks will end,” he said, calling on the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to be given access to the plant.

The Zaporizhzhia plant is Europe’s largest and occupies an extensive site on the river Dnipro. It has continued operating at reduced capacity since Russian forces captured it early in March, with Ukrainian technicians remaining at work.

Fears about the security of the plant have been growing since Russian forces seized the site but reached an inflection point last week when shelling damaged a high-voltage power line and forced one of the plant’s reactors to stop operating despite no radioactive leak being detected.

Ukraine’s state energy company, Energoatom, announced over the weekend that one worker was injured by Russian shelling around the plant, adding that radiation monitoring sensors were also damaged.

Meanwhile, Russia is blaming Ukraine for the shelling around the plant.

Russian-backed authorities in the nearest city, Energodar, claimed that a Ukrainian missile landed within 400 meters of one of the plant’s reactors. Energodar was seized by Russian forces at the same time as the power plant.

“Tonight, the armed formations of Ukraine struck with a Uragan 220 mm rocket missile cluster rocket,” the local authority noted, according to the Russian state news agency RIA Novosti.

“Administrative buildings and the adjoining territory of the dry cask storage facility were damaged by the projectiles,” the authority added.

The Russians have been shelling the Ukrainian-held town of Nikopol from positions around the plant.

On Saturday, the IAEA director general, Rafael Mariano Grossi, said he was extremely concerned by the shelling “which underlines the very real risk of a nuclear disaster that could threaten public health and the environment in Ukraine and beyond.”

Zelensky adviser warns Russia could be preparing to bring more forces to front line

Ukrainian Presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak called on Germany to help increase its weapons supply in an interview with German newspaper Tagesspiegel, according to the president’s office.

The office posted a readout from the interview to its official website Sunday.

Podolyak said in the interview that Ukraine needs “the supply of as many modern weapons as possible” and asked for the participation of German Chancellor Olaf Scholz.

“The more and faster we get heavy weapons, the sooner we will be able to stop this war,” he added.

Podolyak warned he believes Russia wants to “freeze the conflict for six months in order to bring new troops and weapons to the front line,” though there has not been official indication of this from the Russian side.

“If the West gets tired of the war, Russia will strike again with all its might,” Podolyak said.

According to the adviser, Ukraine needs the supply of long-range artillery, MLRS and unmanned aerial vehicles.

“Germany must now take a different path, understand what Russia really is. It is a fact that we need more weapons,” Podolyak added.

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