Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Russia’s “Special Operation” in Ukraine; Day 195: Biden against recognizing Russia as a terrorist-state over Ukraine 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:

Kremlin appreciates Biden not recognizing Russia as state sponsor of terrorism

The Kremlin positively assesses the fact that US President Joe Biden has spoken out against recognizing Russia as a state sponsor of terrorism, Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov stated.

“The very formulation of the issue (of recognizing Russia as a state sponsor of terrorism) is monstrous. And, of course, it is good that the US president responded in this way,” the Kremlin spokesman said in an interview with the RBC TV channel.

In his opinion, “even asking such a question is something that is very difficult to understand.”

When asked whether Biden’s words could be seen as a softening of US anti-Russian rhetoric, the Kremlin spokesman noted that “it can hardly be a reason for such assessments.”


West reluctant to put Putin on trial: Ukrainian officials

Ukraine’s major western allies have yet to sign up to establish a tribunal to try Vladimir Putin and his inner circle for the crime of aggression, wanting to leave space for future relations with Russia, according to Ukraine’s top officials.

“It’s big politics. On the one hand, countries publicly condemn the aggression but on the other, they are putting their foot in the closing door on relations with Russia so that it doesn’t close completely,” said Andriy Smyrnov, deputy head of Ukraine’s presidential administration, who is leading the country’s effort to establish the international tribunal.

Smyrnov stated, “They are attempting to keep some space for diplomatic manoeuvres. We know that agreements with Russia are not worth the paper they are written on.”

His claims come as the US President, Joe Biden, noted on Monday that Russia should not be designated as a state sponsor of terrorism, something Ukrainian officials and some US politicians had pushed for. Russia had previously announced such a designation would mean Washington had crossed the point of no return.

Ukrainian officials say that since April, they have been trying to convince their western allies to establish an ad hoc tribunal which would hold Russia’s senior leadership responsible for the crime of aggression for invading Ukraine. Aggression is viewed as the supreme crime under international law because without the transgression of borders during an invasion, subsequent war crimes would not have been committed.


Ukrainian troops ‘advanced and gained foothold’ in Luhansk: Governor

Serhiy Haidai, the governor of Luhansk oblast, has stated Ukrainian troops have “gained a foothold” in the eastern region.

In an update posted on Telegram, Haidai said Ukrainian forces have “advanced a little” in the Luhansk region and have repulsed Russian attacks.

Haidai wrote, “Luhansk Region continues to defend itself. Enemy attacks have been repulsed, there are certain positive results: our defenders have advanced a little and gained a foothold. We are waiting for the de-occupation.”


Blast in Enerhodar cuts power supply as Russian officials blame Ukrainian shelling

A powerful explosion in the Ukrainian city of Enerhodar — adjacent to the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant — has cut water and electricity supplies, the city’s mayor has said.

“Today at 12:20 residents of Enerhodar reported about a powerful explosion in the city,” noted mayor Dmytro Orlov, who is not in the occupied city, on Telegram.

“After that, the electricity and water supply disappeared simultaneously in Enerhodar,” he added.

Separately, the Russian-backed authorities in the region said that a power line to the city had been damaged by Ukrainian shelling.

The military-civilian administration of Enerhodar announced that “as a result of the shelling, the power line in the area of the nuclear power plant was damaged, there is temporarily no electricity in the city.”

Vladimir Rogov, a senior official in the Russian-backed administration in occupied Zaporizhzhia, stated there had been seven incoming shells.

The Russian Defense Ministry, quoted by state news agency RIA Novosti, claimed that Ukrainian forces had shelled Enerhodar and the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant 15 times in the past day.

“Ukrainian artillery has launched a total of 20 projectiles, including three of them at the nuclear power plant,” the ministry continued.


Russia says United States is behind Europe’s gas supply crisis

Russia’s foreign ministry said on Tuesday that the United States had fomented Europe’s gas supply crisis by pushing European leaders towards the “suicidal” step of cutting economic and energy cooperation with Moscow.

Europe is facing its worst gas supply crisis ever, with energy prices soaring and German importers even discussing possible rationing in the European Union’s biggest economy after Russia reduced gas flows westwards.

When asked what needed to happen for Nord Stream 1 to begin pumping again, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told Reuters: “Listen, you are asking me questions that even children know the answer to: those who started this need to finish this.”

She said the United States had long sought to break the energy ties between Russia and major European powers such as Germany, even though Moscow had been a reliable energy supplier since Soviet times.

“The dominance of Washington prevailed,” Zakharova told Reuters on the sidelines of Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok, adding, “Political forces were brought to power in the European Union who are playing the role of ‘sheep-provocateurs’.”

“It is absolute suicide but it seems they will have to go through this,” she continued.

The United States and European Union have accused Russia of energy blackmail after Moscow reduced gas supplies to European customers. Russia announced there were technical problems with a compressor station that sanctions have prevented being fixed.

The Kremlin says that the West triggered the energy crisis by imposing the most severe sanctions in modern history, a step President Vladimir Putin says is akin to a declaration of economic war.


Putin attends Vostok military exercises involving troops from China and India

President Vladimir Putin has attended large-scale military exercises on Tuesday in Russia’s far east involving China and other “friendly” countries.

Slapped with unprecedented sanctions from Washington and Brussels, Putin has pursued closer ties with countries in Africa, South America and Asia – especially China.

By proceeding with the four-yearly Vostok (East) exercises, Putin appeared to be sending a signal that Russia’s military can conduct business as usual despite the demands of the Ukraine war, where his forces have suffered heavy losses in men and equipment after occupying nearly a fifth of Ukraine.


Moscow warns EU about continental security risks of military aid to Ukraine

The Russian Foreign Ministry has said that the European Union is thoughtlessly providing military assistance to Kiev and is jeopardizing the security of the continent by drawing out the conflict in Ukraine.

“The European Union is not thinking about the consequences of providing military assistance to Kiev, and Brussels is determined to prolong the conflict and endanger the security of the continent,” Deputy Foreign Minister Andrei Rudenko said.

Rudenko noted the EU is training the armed forces in Ukraine, making a reference to an informal meeting of European defense ministers convened last week in Prague, where the prospects of an EU-level military training mission in Ukraine and better pooling of military equipment and resources were discussed.

“Apparently, in addition to the ongoing supply of weapons and military equipment to Kiev, the EU is seeking to arrange the military activities of EU countries in Ukraine under its leadership,” he added.

“They do this without thinking about the consequences,” the Russian deputy foreign minister said, adding that EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell keeps on making hostile statements irrelevant to diplomacy.

According to the top Russian official, the statements indicate that the EU does not want to invest in peace in Ukraine but wants to prolong the conflict.

And to do this, he stated, the scenario of turning Ukraine into a hotbed of constant tension and instability near the Russian border is unfolding.


Pro-Russian official in Kherson speaks of heavy Ukrainian attacks

As Ukrainian forces continue their offensive in the southern Kherson region, Russian media are reporting heavy bombardments around the town of Nova Kakhovka on the Dnipro river.

The Russian backed administration of Nova Kakhovka said Tuesday the town “is once again shelled with rockets from the AFU [armed forces of Ukraine.] This is the eighth air raid alarm in a day.”

Quoted by Russian news agency RIA Novosti, Vladimir Leontiev, head of the administration, noted, “There were 74 missiles overnight, incoming shells continued in the morning, they hit the road infrastructure, the hydroelectric power station.”

“Most of the missiles were repelled by air defense, day by day the results of the air defense are getting better and better,” Leontiev added.

Nova Kakhovka is home to a strategic hydroelectric power plant, and a bridge across the River Dnipro that has been frequently attacked by Ukrainian air strikes and artillery. The bridge is now thought to be impassable.


Erdogan blames Europe energy crisis on sanctions imposed on Russia

Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan has blamed Europe’s energy crisis on sanctions it imposed on Russia over the invasion of Ukraine – a line taken by the Kremlin itself.

He said that European nations were “harvesting what they sowed” by imposing economic restrictions on Russia, Agence France-Presse reports.

Erdogan added, “Europe’s attitude towards Mr Putin, its sanctions, brought Mr [Vladimir] Putin – willingly or not – to the point of saying: ‘If you do this, I will do that’.”

“He is using all his means and weapons. Natural gas, unfortunately, is one of them,” he continued.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov on Monday blamed Russia’s halt of gas deliveries to Germany via the Nord Stream pipeline on “sanctions that were imposed against our country”.


Russia should not be branded terrorism sponsor: Biden

US President Joe Biden has said Russia should not be designated a state sponsor of terrorism, a label Ukraine has pushed for amid Russia’s ongoing invasion while Moscow has warned it would rupture US-Russian ties.

Asked if Russia should be designated a state sponsor of terrorism, Biden told reporters at the White House, “No.”

Some US lawmakers have also pressed for the designation.


Russia buying rockets and shells from North Korea: US

The Russian defence ministry is in the process of buying millions of rockets and artillery shells from North Korea to support its invasion of Ukraine, according to a newly downgraded US intelligence finding.

A US official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, stated that the fact Russia was turning to North Korea demonstrated that “the Russian military continues to suffer from severe supply shortages in Ukraine, due in part to export controls and sanctions”.

US intelligence officials believe that the Russians could look to purchase additional North Korean military equipment in the future.

The finding comes after the Joe Biden administration recently confirmed that the Russian military in August took delivery of Iranian-manufactured drones for use on the battlefield in Ukraine.


Ukraine says it repelled Russian offensives in multiple areas

The Ukrainian military repelled multiple Russian offensives throughout the day and was able to push Moscow’s armies back near Kramatorsk in eastern Ukraine, the General Staff said.

“Our defenders successfully repelled enemy offensive attempts in the areas of the settlements of Bilohorivka, Hryhorivka, Pokrovske, Bakhmutske, Lozove, Spartak, Soledar, Zaitseve and Semihiria,” the General Staff announced, adding, “In the Kramatorsk direction, they had tactical success and knocked the enemy out of the positions he had previously occupied.”

“The defense forces of Ukraine continue to conduct a defensive operation, maintain the defined boundaries and prevent the invaders from advancing deep into the territory of Ukraine,” it noted.

According to the General Staff, the Russian military carried out 40 attacks using multiple launch rocket systems and 25 airstrikes.

The Ukrainian military went on to claim success in specific strikes using long-range artillery in Kherson and Kharkiv.

“As a result of a successful fire attack in the area of ​​Kupiansk settlement of Kharkiv region, the occupiers lost more than 100 servicemen killed and wounded, two combat vehicles were destroyed,” the military said.

“In the city of Kherson, more than 30 servicemen and 3 enemy tanks were hit; and an anti-aircraft missile complex and six enemy trucks were destroyed in the area of ​​the Antonivskyi bridge and crossing,” it stated.

“The successful actions of the Defense Forces led to the disabling of crossings in the Kherson area and once again nullified the aggressor’s attempts to resume the transfer of troops across the Dnipro River,” the General Staff added.


China rejects west’s call for Russian oil price cap

Beijing opposes the decision made by the G7 nations to introduce a price cap on Russian oil, Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Mao Ning said on Monday.

“Oil is crucial for ensuring global energy security,” she told a briefing, adding, “we hope that the countries concerned… will make constructive efforts, and not the other way around.”

The spokesperson urged the G7 states to instead “fortify dialogue and advance negotiations”.


Zelensky accuses Russia of deteriorating situation at Zaporizhzhia plant

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has accused Russia of intentionally deteriorating the situation around Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant, amid a visit by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

A spokesperson for the IAEA told CNN earlier on Monday that the transmission line connecting the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant to the Ukrainian energy grid had been intentionally disconnected due to a fire.

The spokesperson also added the line had not suffered any damage and would be reconnected as soon as the fire was extinguished. Ukraine blamed Russia for the shelling, which, it said, caused the fire.

“I consider the fact that Russia is doing this right now, right on the eve of the IAEA conclusions, very eloquent,” Zelensky stated in his nightly address on Monday.

“Shelling the territory of the ZNPP means that the terrorist state does not care what the IAEA says, it does not care what the international community decides,” he added.

“Russia is only interested in keeping the situation at its worst for the longest time,” he added, explaining this was the second time the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant had been disconnected from the Ukrainian grid, bringing it “one step away from a radiation disaster,” Zelensky continued.

“This can only be amended by enhancing sanctions, only by officially recognizing Russia as a terrorist state — at all levels,” Zelensky concluded, noting, “This requires an international response — starting with the UN to every normal state.”


Russia has yet to achieve any of its strategic objectives in Ukraine’s invasion: UK

More than six months into its war in Ukraine, Russia “has yet to achieve any of its strategic objectives” in its invasion, UK Defense Secretary Ben Wallace stated.

Russia “continues to lose significant equipment and personnel” in the war, he added, saying that the losses will have a lasting impact on Moscow’s future combat effectiveness.

“It is estimated to date that over 25,000 Russian soldiers have lost their lives. If you include killed, casualties, captured or the now reported tens of thousands of deserters — over 80,000 dead or injured and the other categories,” Wallace noted during a statement to lawmakers in the House of Commons.

The Defense Secretary accused Vladimir Putin of “weaponizing” energy and urged his fellow Members of Parliament to communicate the state of affairs to their voters.

“It is important, I think, we communicate to our constituents that some of the deeply uncomfortable times are facing us all are driven by effectively a totalitarian and a regime in Russia that is deliberately setting out to harm us and trying to test us about whether we will sacrifice our values for our energy costs,” he continued.

Ukrainians are making “real gains” in their counteroffensive, but the fighting is “close and hard”, Wallace continued.

Wallace also urged unity across Europe over the winter.

“If we don’t stand together, we don’t deal with it now, these threats won’t go away on their own,” he said, adding, “We shouldn’t forget that this is – sadly – but it is an opportunity to diversify our supply, and it will be better for the long run for everyone as well.”


Ukraine’s Zelensky asks France’s Macron for additional defense support

Ukrainian and French presidents discussed defense support and the UN nuclear inspection during a 1.5 hours-long call, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in a tweet on Monday.

French president also reiterated his full support for restoring Ukraine’s sovereignty, security and territorial integrity, the Elysee said in a readout of the call.

The two leaders also discussed the International Atomic Energy Agency’s mission to the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant.

“President [Emanuel Macron] reiterated the imperative need to preserve the safety and security of the nuclear facilities, which can only be achieved through the withdrawal of Russian forces,” the Elysee announced.

“He also reaffirmed his determination to ensure that Ukrainian sovereignty over the plant is respected,” it added.


Zaporizhzhia power plant’s backup power line is down, not damaged: IAEA

The backup power line supplying the Russian-held Zaporizhzhia power plant (ZNPP) in Ukraine has been disconnected deliberately to extinguish a fire, but it was not damaged, the United Nations nuclear watchdog announced, citing information supplied by Ukraine.

“The ZNPP continues to receive the electricity it needs for safety from its sole operating reactor,” the International Atomic Energy Agency said in a statement.

“Ukraine informed (the) IAEA that this back-up line will be re-connected once the fire has been extinguished,” it added.


President’s adviser urges Ukrainians in occupied territory to prepare shelters

Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak has urged residents of temporarily occupied territories and Russian-occupied Crimea to prepare bomb shelters and stock up on drinking water.

“We ask residents of occupied territories, including the Crimean peninsula, to follow the officials’ recommendations during de-occupation measures,” Podolyak wrote on Twitter.


Ukraine prime minister asks EU for more weapons, offers gas supplies

Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal has urged the European Union to supply Ukraine with more weapons and equipment to help in its fight against Russia’s invasion.

Speaking to reporters in Brussels, Shmyhal said, “We need more modern weapons, such as air defence, missile defence and ship defence.”

Ukraine needed aircraft and more armoured vehicles as there were no signs Russia was willing to end its war, he added.

Shmyhal suggested Ukraine could deliver gas to the EU to ease an energy crunch that has driven prices to record-high levels.

“We can replace to a large extent the Russian imports,” Shmyhal added.

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell, meanwhile, pledged the bloc’s continuous support to Kyiv, no matter “whatever threat, whatever blackmail” might be coming from Russia.

“We will provide our support politically, financially, humanitarian and militarily as long as it takes and as much as needed,” Borrell stated, according to Reuters.


Russia sanctions US actors Ben Stiller, Sean Penn over Ukraine war criticism

Russia has sanctioned US actors Ben Stiller and Sean Penn in response to their public criticism of Moscow’s war on Ukraine.

The foreign ministry included Hollywood actors on a new list of 25 US citizens – mostly politicians, trade officials and industry executives – that it was placing under sanctions and banning from entering Russia.

The sanctions also freeze any Russian assets that those on the list have and prohibit Russian citizens from doing business with them.

Stiller and Penn have been vocal supporters of Ukraine in the conflict and have met President Volodymyr Zelensky in high-profile shows of support.

In a televised meeting in Kyiv in June, Stiller told Zelensky: “You’re my hero.”

Two-time Oscar winner Penn was in Ukraine recording a documentary when Russia invaded on February 24. He was forced to flee on foot, joining the millions of Ukrainians crossing into Poland in the first days of the war.

He has been a vocal backer of Zelensky since, returning to Ukraine in June to meet the Ukrainian leader. Penn also visited Bucha and Irpin near Kyiv, the sites of alleged atrocities against civilians by Russian forces.

The list also included US Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, four deputy commerce secretaries and six US senators.


Final working reactor at Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant disconnected: Ukraine energy operator

The final working reactor at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant has been disconnected from Ukraine’s grid on Monday after Russian shelling disrupted power lines, state energy operator Energoatom said.

The six-reactor facility in southern Ukraine, which is the largest nuclear power plant in Europe, was captured by Moscow in March, but is still being run by Ukrainian staff.

“Today, as a result of a fire caused by shelling, the (last working) transmission line was disconnected,” Energoatom announced in a statement on Telegram.

“As a result, (reactor) unit No. 6, which currently supplies the (plant’s) own needs, was unloaded and disconnected from the grid,” it added.

Ukraine was unable to repair the power lines now because of fighting raging around the station, Ukrainian Energy Minister German Galushchenko wrote on Facebook.

“Any repairs of the power lines are currently impossible- fighting is ongoing around the station,” he said.

Galushchenko complained that the renewed shelling had hit soon after most of the inspectors from a mission by the United Nations’ nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), left the plant earlier on Monday.

“As soon as the IAEA mission left the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant- the station has once again been disconnected,” he added.

Kyiv and Moscow have blamed each other for risking a nuclear disaster as the plant’s territory has been regularly shelled over the past month.


White House on Nord Stream 1 shutdown: Russia using energy as weapon

A White House official has accused Russia of using energy as a “weapon” after it stopped pumping gas through the Nord Stream 1 pipeline and said US sanctions on Moscow do not prevent the major supply route to Europe from operating.

“Russia is using energy as a weapon and it is choosing to shut down the pipeline,” the official stated, according to Reuters.

“The US and Europe have been collaborating to ensure sufficient supplies are available. As a result of these efforts, European gas storage will be full by the critical winter heating season. We have more work to do,” the official added.

Russia blamed sanctions by “the collective West” for causing gas supply problems.


European stocks, euro tumble as Russia deepens energy crisis

European stocks tumbled on Monday and the euro hit a new 20-year dollar low on energy crisis fears, after Russia said it would not restart gas flows to Germany and effectively most of the continent.

Natural gas prices spiked by almost a third, while oil added to strong gains as The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and its Russia-led allies decided at a meeting Monday to lower crude output in a bid to lift prices, the AFP news agency reported.

Europe’s fast-moving gas crisis sent Frankfurt equities slumping more than 3 percent before trimming losses, while Paris shed 2 percent at one stage.

The gas crisis also hit the pound, which hit a post-pandemic low of $1.1444, while the euro sank to $0.9878, its lowest since December 2002.

The shared eurozone unit has collapsed by about 13 percent against the dollar since the start of the year, hit also by the US Federal Reserve’s more aggressive monetary tightening.

State gas giant Gazprom announced late Friday the key Nord Stream pipeline would remain shut indefinitely, blaming leaks.

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