Russia’s “Special Operation” in Ukraine; Day 180: Kiev confirms 9,000 Ukrainian military forces killed in Russia 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:

Almost 9,000 Ukrainian military killed in war with Russia: Armed forces chief

Nearly 9,000 Ukrainian military personnel have been killed in the war with Russia, the head of Ukraine’s armed forces stated on Monday.

The toll given by General Valeriy Zaluzhnyi appeared to be the first provided by Ukraine’s military top brass since Russia’s invasion on Feb. 24.

Zaluzhnyi, the Commander-in-Chief of Ukraine’s armed forces, told a conference held to honour military veterans and the families of those killed that children needed protection in several parts of the country including the capital Kyiv.

Two US bomber jets to fly over Balkans in show of ‘commitment’ to NATO allies

Two US Air Force B-52 bomber jets are set to fly over the Balkans in a show of “commitment” to Washington’s NATO allies in Europe.

The two jets will conduct low-approach flyovers over the government building in North Macedonia’s Skopje and Skanderbeg Square in Albania’s Tirana, the US Air Forces in Europe said in a statement.

They will also fly down the coast of Montenegro and Lovrijenac in Croatia’s Dubrovnik.

“The purpose of each flyover is to demonstrate US commitment and assurance to NATO allies and partners located in south-eastern Europe,” the US Air Forces in Europe added.

Ukraine: 373 children killed, 723 wounded

As a result of the Russian armed aggression in Ukraine, some 373 children were killed, more than 723 were wounded, the press service of the Prosecutor General’s Office (PGO) has reported.

“More than 1,096 children suffered in Ukraine as a result of the Russian full-scale armed aggression. As of the morning of August 22, 2022, the official number of child victims per day has not changed some 373. The number of wounded has increased, more than 723,” the PGO announced in the statement.

These figures are not final, since work is underway to establish them in places of active hostilities, in temporarily occupied and liberated territories.

Due to the bombing and shelling by the Russian armed forces, some 2,328 educational institutions were damaged, of these, 289 were completely destroyed.

Russian forces make limited gains in offensive from Kherson: Ukrainian military

Russian forces have made some progress in pushing north from the occupied southern city of Kherson towards Mykolaiv, according to Ukrainian officials.

The Ukrainian military’s General Staff said Monday that “in the Mykolaiv direction, the occupiers carried out assaults in the area of the settlement of Blahodatne, with partial success.”

On Sunday, the General Staff acknowledged that Russian forces had “occupied the southern outskirts of the settlement of Blahodatne, and hostilities continue.”

The area has seen almost constant combat for three months, but there has been little change in the position of the front lines. In early June, Ukraine announced it had liberated the town from Russian occupation.

The border of the Luhansk and Donetsk regions also saw heavy fighting, according to Ukrainian officials.

“Five massive enemy attacks were repelled; battles continue in six other directions,” regional authorities noted.

There were rocket attacks on several settlements in Donetsk, which killed two people. The General Staff said that Russian forces had again tried to push southwards towards the city of Sloviansk, but “did not succeed and withdrew.” A similar offensive in the Bakhmut area further south had been repelled, it added.

Overall, there appears to have been little change in the frontlines running through Donetsk and Kharkiv regions.

In the Dnipropetrovsk region, the town of Nikopol, across the Dnipro River from the Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, continued to come under fire. Authorities said the area was hit with more than 40 shells and four people were injured.

There was also shelling in the city of Dnipro, according to the regional administration, with as many as 50 properties damaged.

Russian diplomat rules out peace deal to end war: Report

A senior Russian diplomat has ruled out the possibility of a diplomatic solution to end the war in Ukraine in the immediate future.

Gennady Gatilov, Russia’s permanent representative to the UN in Geneva, told the Financial Times newspaper that Moscow and Kyiv had been “very close” to an agreement on pausing the conflict during negotiations hosted by Turkey in April. But he accused the US and other Western supporters of Kyiv of pressing Ukraine to walk away from discussions over a possible ceasefire.

“Now, I do not see any possibility for diplomatic contacts,” Gatilov continued, adding, “And the more the conflict goes on, the more difficult it will be to have a diplomatic solution.”

He added it was impossible to forecast how long the war could last given the failure to restart peace talks and continued western military backing for Kyiv.

“They [Kyiv and its western supporters] will fight until the last Ukrainian,” Gatilov said.

Ukraine agricultural exports may reach four million tonnes in August: Official

Ukraine’s agricultural exports are likely to rise to about four million tonnes in August thanks to a UN-brokered agreement that unblocked the country’s Black sea ports, the deputy chair of the Ukrainian Agrarian Council has stated.

Denys Marchuk, whose organisation represents agricultural producers, told a televised briefing that the figure represented an increase from July, when three million tonnes of agricultural exports were shipped out of the country.

But he warned that despite new export opportunities, Ukrainian farmers would still face a shortage of funds and a third of them would refuse the 2022/23 winter grain sowing which is due to start later this month.

Putin lauds Russian national flag, self-determination

President Vladimir Putin has lauded Russia’s flag as a symbol of a country that is determined to defend its interests and remains loyal to traditional values.

In a video address on Monday marking National Flag Day, Putin did not directly mention Russia’s offensive in Ukraine, but echoed some of the earlier justifications cited by Moscow for launching the invasion in late February.

“The desire to live according to one’s will, to choose one’s own path and follow it, has become part of the genetic code of our people,” he stated, adding, “We are firm in pursuing in the international arena only those policies that meet the fundamental interests of the motherland.”

Putin also said Russian schools beginning in September will open their school weeks with flag-raising ceremonies and singing of the national anthem.

Zelensky warns Russia against ‘show trial’ of Ukrainian soldiers

Russia might take the provocative step of putting Ukrainian soldiers on trial as Kyiv marks 31 years of independence for the war-ravaged country next week, Ukraine’s president has warned.

Volodymyr Zelensky cited media reports that Russia was preparing to put Ukrainian fighters captured during the siege of Mariupol on a public trial to coincide with the independence anniversary on Wednesday.

“If this despicable show trial takes place, if our people are brought into these settings in violation of all agreements, all international rules, there will be abuse,” he warned in an evening address on Sunday.

“This will be the line beyond which no negotiations are possible,” he added.

Two more grain ships leave Ukraine: Turkey

Turkey’s defence ministry says two more ships have left Ukrainian ports under the grain export deal brokered by the UN and Ankara.

A ministry statement, which did not disclose the point of origin of the two ships, added shipments from Ukrainian ports are continuing as planned.

The UN and Turkey brokered a deal with Russia and Ukraine on July 22 to unblock grain exports from Ukraine’s Black Sea ports of Yuzhny, Chornomorsk and Odesa after shipments were halted by Moscow’s offensive.

Ukraine warns of attacks ahead of Independence Day

Ukraine’s president has warned of the potential for more serious attacks by Russian forces ahead of Ukraine’s 31st anniversary of independence from Soviet rule.

In his nightly video address on Sunday, Volodymyr Zelensky called for vigilance, warning Moscow could try “something particularly ugly” ahead of Wednesday, which marks Ukraine’s Independence Day and also half a year since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24.

He added that he had discussed “all the threats” with French President Emmanuel Macron and word had also been sent to other leaders including Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.

“All of Ukraine’s partners have been informed about what the terrorist state can prepare for this week,” Zelensky stated, referring to Russia.

Berlin promises Kiev more weapons ‘soon’

Berlin supplies “a lot of weapons” to Kiev and will continue to provide Ukraine “with what it needs for its defense,” Chancellor Olaf Scholz said, in response to criticism from a former Bundeswehr general.

Germany is currently “in the process of supplying the most modern and efficient equipment,” Scholz stressed during a traditional ‘open-doors day’ this weekend, citing recent multiple deliveries of self-propelled ‘Gepard’ anti-aircraft guns and PzH 2000 howitzers.

The German leader claimed that his main focus remains on “ensuring that there is no escalation of the war,” when a retired Bundeswehr general Klaus Wittmann accused him of a lack of “leadership” and appearing “intimidated” by Russian President Vladimir Putin, as cited by the German news outlet NTV.

Even more weapons “will be there soon,” Scholz vowed, apparently referring to the long-promised deliveries of an Iris-T SLM anti-aircraft missile system and a Cobra artillery radar, but providing no clear timeline.

Back in June, Berlin promised to send Kiev one Iris-T unit for free, but Ukraine wants at least a dozen and has offered to purchase the rest directly from the manufacturer, even as Germany’s armed forces reportedly do not have enough of those most advanced air-defense systems themselves. Kiev is expected to receive the first such system no earlier than November, according to previous reports.

Last month, Germany also committed a Cobra artillery radar to Ukraine, reportedly set for delivery in September. According to German Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht, Kiev has already signed the contract for the materials and troops should be starting training for “this highly complex system.”

Western powers stress importance of nuclear safety in Ukraine: UK

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and the leaders of the United States, France and Germany have stressed the importance of ensuring the safety of nuclear sites in Ukraine in a call, Johnson’s office announced.

“On a joint call, the Prime Minister, President [Joe] Biden, President [Emmanuel] Macron and Chancellor [Olaf] Scholz underlined their steadfast commitment to supporting Ukraine in the face of Russia’s invasion,” a Downing Street spokesperson stated in a statement.

“They stressed the importance of ensuring the safety and security of nuclear installations and welcomed recent discussions on enabling an IAEA mission to the Zaporizhzhia facility,” it added.

Germany rules out keeping nuclear plants running to save gas

German Economy Minister Robert Habeck has ruled out extending the lifespan of the country’s three remaining nuclear power plants, saying it would save at most two percent of gas use.

“It is the wrong decision given the little we would save,” Habeck said.

The plants are due to be shut down by the end of the year under legislation introduced by the government of former Chancellor Angela Merkel following the meltdown at the Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan in 2011.

Habeck added during a discussion with citizens at the government’s open-door day that the gains did not justify reopening the debate about the exit from nuclear energy given the consensus on the topic.

Russian soldiers in Ukraine hospitalized with severe chemical poisoning: Moscow

Several Russian soldiers involved in the military operation in Ukraine have been hospitalized with severe chemical poisoning, the Russian Defense Ministry said on Saturday.

Traces of Botulinum toxin Type B, which is an “organic poison of artificial origin,” have been discovered in samples taken from the servicemen, the ministry announced, accusing Kiev of “chemical terrorism.”

The Russian troops were “hospitalized with signs of severe poisoning” after being stationed near the village of Vasilyevka in Zaporozhye Region on July 31, the statement added.

“The Zelensky regime has authorized terrorist attacks with the use of toxic substances against Russian personnel and civilians” following a string of military defeats in Donbass and other areas, the ministry insisted.

Moscow plans to send laboratory tests from the soldiers to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).

Botulinum toxin, often called the “miracle poison,” is one of the most toxic biological substances known to science. Produced by the Clostridium botulinum bacteria, it blocks the release of the acetylcholine neurotransmitter, causing muscle paralysis.

Botulinum toxin Type A has been used in medicine in small doses in recent decades, especially to treat disorders characterized by overactive muscle movement. It’s also well known in cosmetology under its shortened name, Botox.

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