Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Live Update: Russia’s “Special Operation” in Ukraine; Day 191

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:

Nord Stream gas supply to EU stopped indefinitely: Russia

Russian energy giant Gazprom announced on Friday the suspension of natural gas supplies to the EU via the Nord Stream 1 pipeline, for an indefinite period, due to technical malfunctions.

The pipeline was supposed to restart on September 3 following repairs to its sole operating turbine.

According to the company, it received a warning from Russia’s industrial regulator Rostekhnadzor about the turbine failure.

The problems were reportedly detected during scheduled maintenance work, and the pipeline will not be able to operate without proper repairs, according to Gazprom.

G7 finance chiefs agree on Russian oil price cap

The Group of Seven (G7) finance ministers have agreed to implement a price cap on Russian-origin crude oil and petroleum products, they confirmed in a joint statement.

The initial price cap will be based on a range of technical inputs and the price level will be revisited as necessary, said the ministers.

“We aim to align implementation with the timeline of related measures within the EU´s sixth sanctions package,” they added.

The move comes a day after Russian Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak warned that Moscow would halt oil and petroleum products supplies to countries deciding to cap the Russian oil price.

No energy security for EU without Moscow: Russian official

Europe’s energy security is impossible without Russia, the country’s State Duma Chairman Vyacheslav Volodin says.

“Sanctions against our country led to an energy crisis in European states,” Volodin stated on social media.

The EU member states, Volodin added, have two ways out of the current situation: removing sanctions against Russia and launching the Nord Stream 2 pipeline.

The Baltic Sea gas pipeline project was halted in February after Russia formally recognised two breakaway regions in eastern Ukraine.

Moscow threatens ‘no gas’ for Europe if Brussels adopts price cap

Russian ex-president Dmitry Medvedev stated Moscow would turn off gas supply to Europe if Brussels pushes ahead with a price cap on Russian gas.

Responding to comments by European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen about putting a ceiling on the price Europe pays for Russian gas, Medvedev wrote on the Telegram messaging app: “There will simply be no Russian gas in Europe.”

Ukraine’s counteroffensive largely failing: Russian DM

The counterattack launched by Ukraine in the south of the country has largely failed, Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu has stated.

“Ukrainian forces continue to launch attempted attacks between Mykolaiv and Kryvyi Rih, as well as in other areas, and the enemy is suffering heavy losses,” Shoigu said on the ministry’s Telegram channel on Friday.

Kyiv’s only goal in the offensive is “to create an illusion among Western officials that the Ukrainian army is capable of attacks,” he noted.

Kyiv wants to drive Russian troops stationed west of the Dnieper back behind the river in the Kherson region, Shoigu added.

World food prices fall for fifth month in a row: UN

World food prices have fallen for a fifth consecutive month, partly thanks to the resumption of exports from Ukraine’s Black Sea ports, a UN agency announced on Friday.

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) food price index, which tracks the monthly change in international prices of a basket of food commodities, has been falling steadily since hitting an all-time high in March following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

There was a moderate decline of 1.9 percent in August.

UN experts’ arrival at Ukraine nuclear site ‘very positive’: Kremlin

The Kremlin has said it viewed as “very positive” the arrival of inspectors from the UN atomic agency at the Russian-controlled Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant in southern Ukraine

“In general, we are very positive about the fact that, despite all the difficulties and problems … the commission arrived and started to work,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Friday, adding it was “too early” to evaluate the UN team’s work.

Disconnected reactor of Zaporizhzhia plant back on Ukraine’s grid

The fifth reactor of the Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant has been reconnected to Ukraine’s grid a day after it shut down due to shelling near the site, state nuclear company Energoatom announced.

“At present two reactor blocks are working at the station, generating electricity for the needs of Ukraine,” Energoatom said on Telegram, adding the fifth reactor had been reconnected at 1.10pm local time (10:10 GMT).

The plant was occupied by Russian troops in March, but it continues to be operated by Ukrainian engineers despite repeated shelling on its territory, for which Kyiv and Moscow blame each other.

Russia defence minister accuses Ukraine of ‘nuclear terrorism’

Russian defence minister Sergei Shoigu stated Ukraine is continuing to shell the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, raising the risks of a nuclear catastrophe in Europe.

Shoigu accused Ukraine of “nuclear terrorism” and rejected assertions by Kyiv and the West that Russia had deployed heavy weapons at the nuclear power plant in southern Ukraine, which has been under Russian control since March.

Both Kyiv and Moscow have accused each other of attacking the facility.

Russia to stop selling oil to countries that impose price caps

The Kremlin says Moscow will stop selling oil to countries that impose price caps on Russia’s energy resources.

Moscow announced the caps will lead to significant destabilisation of the global oil market.

“Companies that impose a price cap will not be among the recipients of Russian oil,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters in a conference call, endorsing comments made on Thursday by Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak.

Ukraine: ‘Difficult’ for IAEA to impartially assess nuclear plant

Ukraine’s state nuclear company, Energoatom, announced it will be “difficult” for the United Nations’ nuclear watchdog to make an impartial assessment of the situation at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant due to Russian interference.

Energoatom also said the mission of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) team, which arrived at the power station on Thursday, had not been allowed to enter the plant’s crisis centre, where Ukraine says Russia has stationed troops.

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky has also stated the IAEA mission to the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant could still be important despite the difficulties caused by the Russian presence at the site,

“We did everything to ensure that IAEA would get access to the Zaporizhzhia plant and I believe that this mission may still have a role to play,” Zelensky noted in a video streamed at a forum in Italy.

Shelling ‘continues’ near Ukraine nuclear plant

Britain’s defence ministry announced heavy fighting persists in the southern part of Ukraine including shellings in the Enerhodar district, near the Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant.

On Thursday, the head of the UN nuclear agency stated the “physical integrity” of the nuclear plant had been “violated” following frequent shelling, on his team’s first visit to the facility.

Russian forces seized control of the plant, Europe’s largest, and the surrounding region shortly after the February 24 invasion.

Zelensky says he welcomes IAEA mission to Zaporizhzhia, despite “provocations”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky welcomed the visit by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant on Thursday, despite what he called “all the provocations of the Russian military” on the city of Enerhodar and at the station.

In his daily video message, Zelensky said it was “bad that the occupiers are trying to turn this IAEA mission — which is really necessary — into a fruitless tour of the station. I trust that this will not be allowed to happen.”

“We have specific information that Russia has done a lot of cynical things in order to deceive the [IAEA] mission, including intimidation of the Enerhodar city residents. The occupiers [force] people to lie to the IAEA representatives,” he added.

Zelensky also claimed that an agreement to allow independent journalists to accompany the IAEA delegation was not upheld.

“Unfortunately, the occupiers did not let journalists in, but organized a crowd of their propagandists,” he continued, noting, “Unfortunately, IAEA representatives did not protect representatives of independent media.”

Ukrainian military says it is focusing attacks on bridges and other Russian positions near Kherson

The Ukrainian military announced it is keeping up the pressure on Russian forces in the southern Kherson region, with attacks on several targets Thursday, including bridges across the Dnipro river.

Its Operational Command South said, “Our missile and artillery units conducted fire missions on three control points, a radar station, two points of concentration of enemy manpower, weapons and equipment.”

“An attempt to establish a new pontoon crossing in the Dariivka area was also cut down by our fire,” it noted.

It added that fire against the Kakhovskyi Bridge left several additional holes, which meant it remained unusable to occupying forces.

Ukrainian forces have focused in the last two months on degrading Russian supply lines, ammunition depots and rear bases in the south.

Nuclear inspectors went to Zaporizhzhia plant despite shelling near the facility: IAEA chief

International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) chief Rafael Grossi said he and his team went to inspect the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant Thursday despite shelling near the plant earlier in the day.

“Having come this far, I was not going to stop and with my courageous team we moved in. There were moments where fire was obvious,” Grossi told reporters.

“Heavy machine gun artillery, mortars two or three times were really pretty concerning, I would say, for all of us. We had splendid support from the United Nations Security team that is here with me as well. So I think we showed that the international community is there, could be there and we are continuing this,” he added.

Grossi’s remarks come as Ukraine accused Russian forces of trying to disrupt the IAEA visit to the nuclear plant by shelling in the city of Enerhodar near the facility early Thursday.

Chief of UN nuclear watchdog says he’ll continue to worry until situation at Zaporizhzhia plant stabilizes ​

International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) chief Rafael Grossi stated Thursday he would continue to worry until the situation at Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant had stabilized.

“I worry, and I will continue to be worried about the plant until we have a situation which is more stable, which is more predictable. It is obvious that the plant and the physical integrity of the plant has been violated several times by chance [and] by deliberation,” Grossi told reporters after his visit to the plant.

“Wherever you stand, whatever you think about this war. This is something that cannot happen and this is why we are trying to put in place certain mechanisms and the presence,” he added.

Grossi noted that the United Nations’ nuclear watchdog is “not going anywhere” and will have a “continued presence” at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant.

“We are not going anywhere. The IAEA is now there at the plant and it’s not moving. It’s going to stay there. We’re going to have a continued presence there at the plant,” Grossi said while speaking to reporters following a visit to the plant.

UK finance minister hopes G7 ministers will agree to a price cap on Russian oil exports

Britain’s Chancellor of the Exchequer Nadeem Zahawi said on Thursday that he is hopeful that G7 ministers will agree on Friday to a price cap scheme for Russian oil exports.

Speaking at an event organized by Washington, DC-based think tank American Enterprise Institute, Zahawi stated the primary reason he was in the US was “to get this oil price gap over the line.”

“We have an important meeting tomorrow with the G7 finance ministers, and I’m hopeful we’ll be able to have a statement that will mean that we can move forward at pace to deliver this oil price cap,” he added.

Russia’s government is making just as much money from energy exports as it was before its invasion of Ukraine. Meanwhile, inflation is surging globally.

With price caps, barrels of Russian oil could theoretically still make their way onto the global market, thereby avoiding a further supply crunch — but Moscow wouldn’t be able to keep raking in hefty profits.

Germany plans to boost liquefied natural gas capacity as Russian gas dwindles

Germany will charter a fifth floating liquefied natural gas terminal as the country looks to become independent of Russian gas imports and secure supplies for future winters, the country’s economic ministry announced Thursday.

The terminal for the import of LNG will be installed in Wilhelmshaven, a port city in northwestern Germany.

It will have a capacity of 5 billion cubic meters per year and will be operated by a consortium made up of energy companies EON, Engie and Tree Energy Solutions, according to the ministry. It is scheduled to become fully operational at the end of 2023.

Germany has been under pressure from Ukraine and other nations in Europe reduce its reliance on Russian energy supplies since the start of the invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24.

“All the steps we take to free ourselves as quickly as possible from the clutches of Russian imports are more necessary than ever,” Germany’s Vice Chancellor and Economy Minister Robert Habeck told reporters on Thursday.

“It is astonishing that we have reduced the dependence on Russian gas so quickly with the development of new infrastructure, compared to the decades it took to become dependent on Russia,” Habeck continued, adding that Germany should not rely on gas being delivered through the Nord Stream 1 gas pipeline from Russia over the coming winter.

For future winters, the newly chartered floating unit is expected fill the gap left by Russian gas imports, which covered 55% of Germany’s demand before the invasion of Ukraine.

The five government-chartered terminals have a total capacity of 25 billion cubic meters per year, with the first set to begin pumping gas around the end of 2022.

Russian state energy giant Gazprom cut all deliveries through the Nord Stream 1 pipeline on Wednesday in what it said was a planned shutdown until Saturday for maintenance work.

In recent months, Gazprom has slashed flows through Nord Stream 1 to just 20% of capacity, citing maintenance issues and blaming Western sanctions on exports of technology imposed in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

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