Friday, June 21, 2024

Live Update: Russia’s “Special Operation” in Ukraine; Day 210

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:

Putin’s partial mobilization move is “no surprise” as Russian forces see high desertion rates: Zelensky

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s announcement on an immediate partial mobilization comes as no surprise, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said.

The announcement shows that Russia has “problems with officers and other military personnel,” he stated.

“We already know that they mobilized cadets — guys who couldn’t fight. These cadets have fallen. They couldn’t even finish their training. All these people can’t fight. They have come to us and are dying,” he noted.

“He sees that his units are just running away. He needs an army of millions to come to us. Because he sees that a large part of those who come to us just run away,” the president continued.

“He wants to drown Ukraine in blood, but also in the blood of his own soldiers,” Zelensky added.

“We will act step by step according to our plans. I am sure we will liberate our territory,” he stressed.

Russia releases two US citizens in prisoner exchange

Russia has released US citizens Alexander Drueke, 39, and Andy Huynh, 27, in a prisoner exchange deal brokered by Saudi Arabia, a family representative told Reuters news agency.

The pair, both from Alabama, were captured in June while fighting in eastern Ukraine where they went to support Ukrainian troops resisting Russia’s invasion.

EU chief and UK prime minister say “Russia’s invasion is failing”

In a joint statement, British Prime Minister Liz Truss and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said Wednesday that both agree Russian President Vladimir Putin’s announcement of an immediate partial mobilization of Russian citizens is a sign of “weakness.”

It’s also a sign that “Russia’s invasion is failing,” the two leaders stated in the statement after meeting on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York.

“They recognised the courage and bravery of the Ukrainian people and underscored their joint commitment to sustaining support for Ukraine in its struggle as long as it takes,” according to the statement.

Over 200 detained across Russia at protests against mobilisation: NGO

More than 200 people have been arrested at demonstrations across Russia against Putin’s announcement of a partial mobilisation of civilians to fight in Ukraine, a police monitoring group has announced.

The OVD-Info monitoring group said at least 260 people were detained at rallies in 20 different cities, while the AFP news agency reported that police wearing anti-riot gear were detaining protesters.

Russia releases 10 foreigners captured in Ukraine after Saudi mediation

Russia released 10 prisoners of war captured in Ukraine following mediation by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, a Saudi official has noted.

The list includes American, British, Swedish, Croatian and Moroccan nationals, the official said, adding that a plane carrying the prisoners landed in the kingdom.

Russia has ‘shamelessly violated’ UN Charter in Ukraine: Biden

US President Joe Biden has accused Russia of “shamelessly” violating the core tenets of the United Nations charter with its “brutal, needless war” in Ukraine.

Delivering a forceful condemnation of Russia’s invasion to the United Nations General Assembly, Biden said reports of Russian abuses against civilians in Ukraine “should make your blood run cold”.

He also stated Russian President Vladimir Putin’s new thinly veiled nuclear threats showed “reckless disregard” for his nation’s responsibilities as a signatory of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.

“We will stand in solidarity against Russia’s aggression. Period,” he added.

Biden squarely pinned the blame for the global food crisis on Russia, accusing the country of “pumping out lies” about Western sanctions amid its war in Ukraine.

“Russia … is pumping out lies, trying to pin the blame for the crisis — the food crisis — on the sanctions imposed by many in the world for the aggression against Ukraine. So let me be perfectly clear about something: Our sanctions explicitly allow, explicitly allow, Russia the ability to export food and fertilizer. No limitation,” he said.

“It’s Russia’s war that is worsening food insecurity, and only Russia can end it,” Biden added.

The president lauded the UN for helping to broker a grain export deal with Ukraine and Russia, and he encouraged its extension.

Biden noted as many as 193 million people around the world are experiencing acute food insecurity, “a jump of 40 million in a year.”

He also announced $2.9 billion in US support for humanitarian and food assistance.

NATO chief slams Putin’s ‘reckless nuclear rhetoric’

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has denounced Vladimir Putin’s “dangerous” rhetoric after Russia’s leader hinted at a possible use of nuclear weapons over the war in Ukraine.

“This is dangerous and reckless nuclear rhetoric. It’s not new as he has done it many times before. He knows very well that a nuclear war should never be fought and cannot be won, and it will have unprecedented consequences for Russia,” Stoltenberg said on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly.

His remarks came just hours after Putin stated Moscow would use “all available means” to protect Russia’s “territorial integrity”.

“This is not a bluff,” the Russian leader warned.

Macron says Putin’s partial mobilisation is a ‘mistake’

French President Emmanuel Macron has described Vladimir Putin’s move to declare a partial military mobilisation as a “mistake”, warning it will further isolate Russia.

“His decision is bad news for Russian people, young people and will increase isolation of his county”, Macron said in New York, where the United Nations General Assembly is meeting.

Putin must recognise he cannot win Ukraine war: Scholz

President Vladimir Putin will only give up his “imperial ambitions” that risk destroying Ukraine and Russia if he recognises he cannot win the war, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has said.

“This is why we will not accept any peace dictated by Russia and this is why Ukraine must be able to fend off Russia’s attack,” Scholz stated in his first address to the United Nations General Assembly.

The return of imperialism, with Putin’s war on Ukraine, was not just a disaster for Europe but for the global, rules-based peace order, the chancellor added.

He also called on the UN to defend this from those who would prefer a world where the “strong rule the weak”.

Ukrainian official says Kharkiv demining could take several years

Ukraine is beginning work to demine 12,000 square km (4,633 square miles) of territory wrested back from Russian control in the country’s northeastern Kharkiv region, an emergency service official has said.

Roman Prymush told a news briefing that it could take several years to fully rid the area, which is bigger than the state of Qatar, of the explosive munitions.

He added that the United States, the United Kingdom and Canada would help with the work.

EU pledges ‘steadfast’ support for Ukraine

The president of the European Council says the European Union will remain “steadfast” in its support for Ukraine amid Russia’s move to mobilise hundreds of thousands of reserve troops and oversee annexation votes in occupied territories.

“In this war, there is only one aggressor, Russia, and one aggressed country, Ukraine,” Charles Michel tweeted.

“[The] EU’s support to Ukraine will remain steadfast,” he added.

Zelensky sees dwindling chance of peace talks with Putin

Ukraine’s president has said there is a shrinking likelihood of him holding talks with President Vladimir Putin about ending the war, adding such discussions could only take place if the Russian leader withdrew his forces from Ukrainian territory.

Speaking via a translator in an interview with Germany’s Bild newspaper, Volodymyr Zelensky stated that Ukraine wanted to hold any potential talks with Moscow from a position of strength.

He accused Putin of wanting to “drown Ukraine in blood”, including that of his own soldiers, after the Russian leader ordered a partial mobilisation of his country’s reserve forces.

Zelensky promised that Ukrainian efforts to recapture territory seized by Moscow’s troops would continue.

“We will act according to our plans step by step. I am sure we will liberate our territory,” he said, adding that he did not believe the world would allow Putin to use nuclear weapons in the war.

The Russian president had earlier warned that Moscow would use all of the means at its disposal to protect Russia’s “territorial independence and freedom”.

Putin’s partial mobilization is a “sign that he’s struggling”: White House official

John Kirby, the National Security Council coordinator for strategic communications, said that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s announcement on immediate partial mobilization was “expected” and a “sign that he’s struggling.”

“I think there was a lot in there that was a typical – a lot that we’ve heard before,” Kirby stated during an appearance on ABC’s “Good Morning America,” citing Putin’s baseless claims of neo-Nazis in Ukraine and that Russian territorial integrity is being threatened.

Kirby noted that Putin’s announcement of a partial mobilization of reservists is “a lot” and “almost twice as much as he committed to the war back in February of this year.”

He sought to cast Putin’s speech, which comes hours ahead of US President Joe Biden’s address to the United Nations, as a signal of weakness.

“It’s definitely a sign that he’s struggling, and we know that he has suffered tens of thousands of casualties. He has terrible morale unit cohesion on the battlefield command and control has still not been solved. He’s got desertion problems and he’s forcing the wounded back into the fight. So clearly, manpower is a problem for him. He feels like he’s on his back foot, particularly in that northeast area of the Donbas,” Kirby added.

More than 75,000 Russian troops have been killed or wounded during the war in Ukraine, Biden administration officials told US lawmakers during a classified briefing in July, but it’s difficult to independently gauge casualty figures in the war.

Kirby also said the US is taking Putin’s nuclear threats “seriously” but that this rhetoric was “not atypical.”

“It’s irresponsible rhetoric for a nuclear power to talk that way, but it’s not atypical for how he’s been talking the last seven months, and we take it very seriously. We’re monitoring as best we can, their strategic posture, so that if we have to, we can alter ours. We’ve seen no indication that that’s required right now,” he added.

There will be “severe consequences” for the use of nuclear weapons, Kirby warned.

Kirby reiterated national security adviser Jake Sullivan’s Tuesday preview of Biden’s remarks to the UN, saying that Biden will be “very clear about where we stand with respect to Russia and Ukraine,” and he also reiterated the US commitment to the UN charter.

Putin “clearly not seeing Ukraine conflict go the way he had hoped”: British foreign secretary

Britain’s Foreign Secretary James Cleverly on Wednesday described Moscow’s announcement that it will call up 300,000 reservists as clear proof that the war is not going as Russian President Vladimir Putin had expected.

“We knew … that he had hoped to dominate Ukraine in a matter of days. We’re now seeing months later, Ukrainians are pushing the Russians back, and these are the actions of someone who knows this conflict is not going well,” the British lawmaker said to CNN’s John Berman from the United Nations General Assembly in New York.

When asked what difference 300,000 new troops would make to Russia’s efforts, Cleverly stated the “hundreds of thousands of Russian troops” massed on Russia’s border with Ukraine in February were “poorly motivated, poorly equipped, and they did not have the spirit for the fight.”

“I said at the time the Ukrainians would be ferocious in the defense of their country; that’s exactly what we have seen,” he continued, adding, “with the support of the international community including the UK and, of course, the United States of America, they have been incredibly effective defenders of their homeland.”

The foreign secretary added that sending more troops into Ukraine would only “create more parents who have lost their sons and daughters in this conflict,” and “more disquiet in Russia.”

“It is a fundamentally wrong way forward and what Putin should do is withdraw from Ukraine, let the Ukrainians have control of their territory once again and bring this conflict to an end,” he said.

Putin making a ‘very dangerous nuclear gamble’: EU

President Vladimir Putin is making a “very dangerous nuclear gamble” and must “stop such reckless behaviour”, an EU executive has warned.

European Commission spokesperson Peter Stano said that the “sham, illegal referenda” planned in Luhansk, Donetsk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia this weekend would not be recognised.

Stano told reporters, “Putin is doing a nuclear gamble. He’s using the nuclear element as part of his arsenal of terror, it’s unacceptable.”

EU member states have held discussions on how to respond to the latest developments in Russia’s war in Ukraine, he continued, warning Moscow that there would be “consequences from our part”.

Russian stocks crash amid signs of war escalation

The Russian stock market tumbled after Vladimir Putin ordered his country’s partial mobilisation and threatened the west with nuclear retaliation.

Putin’s announcement sent the Moscow stock exchange’s MOEX index plunging by as much as 10%, marking a second day in falling stocks.

On Tuesday, the rouble-denominated MOEX index fell by 8.7% to hit its lowest point since mid-August.

International Rescue Committee calls for “immediate ceasefire” to war in Ukraine

The International Rescue Committee (IRC) has cautioned that increased military activity in Ukraine will exacerbate the humanitarian crisis and prompt a rise in displacement.

The IRC’s warning came on the heels of President Vladimir Putin’s announcement on Wednesday launching the immediate partial mobilization of Russian citizens in the conflict.

Moscow will summon 300,000 reservists as part of its strategy, according to Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu.

“Russia’s move to mobilise additional armed forces sets the conflict on a fresh and dangerous path,” Marysia Zapasnik, IRC Ukraine country director, said in a statement.

“A further escalation in fighting is a grave concern for the Ukrainian people — both inside the country and for those who have left,” Zapasnik added.

“In the last seven months, Ukraine has experienced a desperate spiral into humanitarian catastrophe; almost 18 million people are in need of shelter, food and healthcare and the future looks bleak as winter closes in and conditions worsen. Meanwhile, displacement could soar as more people attempt to leave the country to seek safety in neighbouring countries,” Zapasnik continued.

Recent figures from the UN’s refugee agency show that over 7.2 million refugees from Ukraine have been recorded across Europe.

“The consequences of the conflict will be longlasting: if the war deepens and protracts further, Ukraine’s population could face poverty and the vulnerabilities that come with it for years to come,” Zapasnik added, saying, “The only solution is an immediate ceasefire.”

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has been a key point of discussion for world leaders gathering in New York City for the 77th session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA).

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is the only world leader to speak by video, as he grapples with the war in his country. The Assembly on Friday overrode Russian objections to permit Zelensky to speak virtually.

Mobilisation exemptions to be determined ‘soon’: Kremlin

The Kremlin has said Russia’s government will announce “very soon” which categories of citizens will be exempted from its mobilisation of reservists to serve in Ukraine.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov’s remarks to reporters came after Russia’s defence minister insisted that students would not be called up as part of the move to strengthen Moscow’s forces.

Peskov declined to comment on the possibility of border closures to prevent citizens from evading the mobilisation.

Kyiv mayor says Putin has “launched the processes that will bury him”

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s announcement of partial mobilization and his threat of nuclear deployment in Ukraine has “launched the processes that will bury him,” the mayor of Kyiv stated Wednesday.

“The mobilization announced by Putin and nuclear threats will not help the aggressor in his quest to conquer and destroy Ukraine and Ukrainians,” Vitali Klitschko said on his official Telegram channel.

“The tyrant finally launched the processes that will bury him in his country,” he continued.

“The civilized world must finally understand that evil must be destroyed completely, and not talk about some illusory ‘peace negotiations,'” Klitschko added.

EU executive says member states weighing response to war developments

The European Union’s executive arm says the bloc’s member states have been discussing a joint response to the latest developments in Ukraine, warning Moscow there will “be consequences” for its actions.

“The EU member states have already held a coordination meeting where discussions have been held in terms of an EU response to the continuation of the war of aggression against Ukraine,” European Commission spokesman Peter Stano stated.

“This includes all aspects of the aggression, the crimes that have been committed, the referenda, the discoveries of mass burial sites,” he told a news briefing.

Stano noted there were no announcements to be made at this stage on further sanctions against Russia, however, as discussions on a sixth round of measures by the bloc were confidential.

Putin’s partial mobilization plans show he is “clearly afraid”: Estonian PM

stonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas said that Russian President Vladimir Putin is “clearly afraid” after he announced partial mobilization and hinted at use of nuclear weapons.

“The threat has always been real, considering that Russia is a nuclear power. And we see that this war is not going in accordance with Putin’s plans, so he’s clearly afraid. That’s why he’s making the next steps: First, doing the fake referendums to say these are Russian territories, then when Ukraine makes counterattacks saying that Ukraine is now attacking Russia, and then, you know, giving reasons to further escalate,” she told CNN’s Jim Sciutto.

Kallas added Estonia has seen no indication that Putin is taking steps to carry out his nuclear threats.

“He’s making those threats to make us afraid, and we shouldn’t be afraid by his threats,” she said.

“We should not give in one inch. We should actually put more pressure on Russia to stop this war, because now the discontent within the Russian society is also building, because they are also feeling the war on their skin, so to say,” Kallas added.

Lithuania raises army’s readiness level

Lithuania has raised the readiness level of its army’s rapid response force “to prevent any provocations from the Russian side”, according to the country’s defence minister.

“Since Russia’s military mobilisation will also be carried out in the Kaliningrad region, in our neighborhood, Lithuania cannot just watch,” Arvydas Anusauskas said in a Facebook post.

Latvia says it won’t provide refuge to Russians fleeing Putin’s partial mobilization of citizens

Latvia will not offer shelter to Russians fleeing President Vladimir Putin’s partial mobilization of citizens in the war in Ukraine, a top government official has said.

“For security reasons, Latvia will not issue humanitarian or other visas to Russian citizens who are evading mobilization, nor will it change the border crossing restrictions imposed since 19 September on Russian citizens with Schengen visas,” Latvia’s minister of foreign affairs, Edgars Rinkēvičs, tweeted.

Rinkēvičs’ announcement comes days after his country joined other Baltic states in beginning to enforce a ban on some Russian tourists, in a move to bolster restrictions in response to Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, as well as Poland, reached an agreement earlier this month to limit issuing Schengen Area visas due to “a serious threat” to security posed by an influx of Russians.

The Schengen Area comprises 26 mostly EU countries that allow unrestricted movement within the zone’s borders.

Ukrainians being subjected to ‘savageness’: Pope Francis

Pope Francis has lamented the war in Ukraine, saying Ukrainians are being subjected to savageness, monstrosities and torture.

Speaking at the end of his general audience in St Peter’s Square, the Pope, who did not name Russia, said Ukrainians were a “noble” people being martyred.

He also told the crowd of a conversation he had on Tuesday with Cardinal Konrad Krajewski, his charity chief who is delivering aid in Ukraine.

“He [Krajewski] told me about the pain of these people, the savagery, the monstrosities, the tortured corpses they find. Let us join these people who are so noble and martyred,” Francis added.

Polish PM warns Russia will attempt to destroy Ukraine

Poland’s prime minister has warned that Russia will attempt to destroy Ukraine and change its borders following Moscow’s push to stage annexation votes in occupied territory and mobilise hundreds of thousands of reserve forces.

“We will do all we can with our allies, so that NATO supports Ukraine even more so that it can defend itself,” Mateusz Morawiecki stated in eastern Poland, where he was observing military drills.

Russia’s mobilisation is a sign of the Kremlin’s panic: Dutch PM

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte on Wednesday said Russia’s mobilisation order is a sign of panic at the Kremlin, that should not be taken as a direct threat of full-out war with the West.

“The mobilisation, calling for referenda in the Donetsk, it is all a sign of panic. His rhetoric on nuclear weapons is something we have heard many times before, and it leaves us cold,” Rutte told Dutch broadcaster NOS.

“It is all part of the rhetoric we know. I would advise to remain calm,” he added.

UK defence secretary: Putin’s partial mobilisation ‘an admission invasion is failing’

The UK’s defence secretary Ben Wallace has issued a statement in response to Vladimir Putin’s address this morning.

“President Putin’s breaking of his own promises not to mobilise parts of the population and the illegal annexation of parts of Ukraine are an admission that his invasion is failing,” he said.

“He and his defence minister have sent tens of thousands of their own citizens to their deaths, ill-equipped and badly led,” the official added,

“No amount of threats and propaganda can hide the fact that Ukraine is winning this war, the international community are united and Russia is becoming a global pariah,” Wallace noted.

China urges consultation, dialogue

China’s foreign ministry has urged all parties to engage in dialogue and consultation to address the security concerns of all after Russian Putin warned the West over what he described as “nuclear blackmail”.

China’s position on Ukraine is consistent and clear, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said at a regular media briefing on Wednesday.

DM: Russia’s mobilisation will see 300,000 drafted

Russian defence minister Sergei Shoigu said President Vladimir Putin’s decree on partial mobilisation would see 300,000 additional personnel called up to serve in Russia’s military campaign in Ukraine.

In an interview with Russian state television, Shoigu stated that students and those who served as conscripts would not be called up, and that the majority of Russia’s millions-strong reserves would not be drafted.

He added Russia was at war with the collective West rather than Ukraine.

“In reality, we are fighting the collective West plus NATO. When we speak about it, we mean not only the weapons being supplied [to Kiev] in huge batches, but also about systems of communication and information processing systems,” Shoigu stated.

Russia’s mobilisation was ‘predictable’, shows war effort failing: Ukraine

Russia’s mobilisation was a predictable step that will prove extremely unpopular and underscores that the war is not going according to Moscow’s plan, Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak told Reuters on Wednesday.

Podolyak said in a text message that Russian President Vladimir Putin was trying to shift the blame for starting an “unprovoked war” and Russia’s worsening economic situation onto the West.

Putin threatens to use ‘all means at our disposal’ to defend ‘Russia and our people’

Russian President Vladimir Putin made clear reference on Wednesday to his potential use of nuclear weapons, saying “those who try to blackmail us with nuclear weapons should know that the prevailing winds can turn in their direction.”

Announcing a partial mobilization of citizens to bolster the war in Ukraine, he emphasized that Russia has access to “various means of destruction.”

“I want to remind you that our country also has various means of destruction and in some components more modern than those of the NATO countries,” he continued, adding, “And if the territorial integrity of our country is threatened, we will certainly use all the means at our disposal to protect Russia and our people.”

“This is not a bluff! The citizens of Russia can be sure that the territorial integrity of our homeland, our independence and freedom will be ensured, I will emphasize this again, with all the means at our disposal. And those who try to blackmail us with nuclear weapons should know that the prevailing winds can turn in their direction,” Putin stated.

Putin said that Western countries are seeking to destroy Russia.

“The goal of the West is to weaken, divide and ultimately destroy our country,” he continued, adding, “They are already saying directly that they were able to split the Soviet Union in 1991 and now the time has come for Russia to break up into a multitude of regions and areas which are fatally hostile to each other.”

US Ambassador to Ukraine says partial mobilization “a sign of failure”

The US Ambassador in Kyiv has dismissed Russian President Vladimir Putin’s announcement Wednesday morning as a sign of failure and vowed the United States would continue to support Ukraine’s resistance towards Russian aggression.

“Sham referenda and mobilization are signs of weakness, of Russian failure,” Ambassador Bridget A. Brink tweeted, just minutes after the broadcast of the Russian leader’s speech had begun.

“The United States will never recognize Russia’s claim to purportedly annexed Ukrainian territory, and we will continue to stand with Ukraine for as long as it takes,” Brink added.

Putin signs decree on partial mobilisation for citizens

Russian President Vladimir Putin has announced a partial mobilisation in Russia as the war in Ukraine reaches nearly seven months.

In a televised address to the nation on Wednesday, Putin said he was defending Russian territories and that the West wanted to destroy the country.

The president stated he has signed a decree on the partial mobilisation, which is due to start later on Wednesday.

“We are talking about partial mobilisation, that is, only citizens who are currently in the reserve will be subject to conscription, and above all, those who served in the armed forces have a certain military specialty and relevant experience,” he added.

US denounces as ‘sham’ Russian-planned referendums in Ukraine

The US denounced Russia’s planned referendums to annex parts of Ukraine as “sham” actions and said it would not recognise the results.

“These referenda are an affront to the principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity that underpin the international system,” said White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan.

“If this does transpire, the United States will never recognise Russia’s claims to any purportedly annexed parts of Ukraine,” he added.

EU condemns Russia’s plans to hold referendums in parts of Ukraine

The European Union strongly condemns Russia’s plans to hold referendums in parts of Ukraine and will not recognise the results of the votes, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said in a statement.

“Russia, its political leadership, and all those involved in these ‘referenda’ and other violations of international law in Ukraine will be held accountable, and additional restrictive measures against Russia would be considered,” he stated.

Borrell added the referendums votes cannot be considered “as the free expression of the will of the people” in these regions.

NATO says Russian-planned votes in Ukraine are ‘further escalation’ of war

NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg has denounced plans by Russian-backed forces to hold referendums in Ukraine, warning that they were yet another escalation of the war brought on by the Kremlin.

“Sham referendums have no legitimacy and do not change the nature of Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine. This is a further escalation in Putin’s war,” the secretary-general of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization wrote on Twitter.

“The international community must condemn this blatant violation of international law and step up support for Ukraine,” he added.

Macron brands invasion of Ukraine return to ‘imperialism’

The French president has told the United Nations that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine harked back to an earlier age of imperialism.

“What we have witnessed since February 24 is a return to the age of imperialism and colonies. France refuses this and will work persistently for peace,” Emmanuel Macron told the UNGA.

Macron has denounced pro-Russian separatists’ plans for referendums in Ukraine, saying any vote for annexation would be legally meaningless.

“I think what Russia announced is a travesty,” he told reporters at the UNGA, calling it a “new provocation” that “will have no consequence on our own position”.

“The very idea of organising referendums in regions witnessing war, which are suffering bombings, is the height of cynicism,” Macron stated.

Ukraine says Russian referendums will destroy possibility of talks

Any referendums on joining Russia in Russian-occupied Ukrainian territories would destroy any remaining window for talks between Kyiv and Moscow, Ukrainian publication cited the Ukrainian president’s office spokesman as saying.

“Without the referendums, there is still the smallest chance for a diplomatic solution. After the referendums – no,” quoted Serhiy Nykyforov as saying.

Presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak wrote on Twitter later that any referendums should be met by an increase in economic sanctions on Russia and arms supplies to Ukraine, including Army Tactical Missile Systems (ATACMS) that have a longer range than any known Ukrainian weapon system at present.

“Kremlin opposes the supply of modern tanks and ATACMS to Ukraine? It is time to give [them],” he added.

Erdogan: Turkey a key player in halting Ukraine war

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan stated Turkey has emerged as a key player in the Ukraine conflict and the resumption of grain shipments through the Black Sea.

“We have proven our stance while we were fighting against the crisis created as a result of the Russian-Ukrainian conflict,” he said, adding, “We are always underlining the significance of diplomacy in the settlement of the disputes through dialogue.”

“We are investing tremendous efforts in order to ensure that the war will be finalised by protecting the territorial integrity and the sovereignty of Ukraine once and for all,” Erdogan continued.

Erdogan has called for a “dignified way out” of the seven-month crisis sparked by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“Together, we need to find a reasonably practical diplomatic solution that will give both sides a dignified way out of the crisis,” he told the opening session of the UNGA.

US senators want secondary sanctions on Russian oil

Democratic and Republican senators have urged the Joe Biden administration to impose secondary sanctions on international banks to strengthen a price cap G7 countries plan to impose on Russian oil.

Democratic Senator Chris Van Hollen and Republican Senator Pat Toomey introduced legislation imposing the secondary sanctions, which would target financial institutions involved in trade finance, insurance, reinsurance and brokerage of Russian oil and petroleum products sold at prices exceeding the cap.

The two senators are members of the Senate Banking Committee, which oversees sanctions policy. They said the ability to target banks would make it harder for Russia to evade the price cap by making deals with countries not formally participating in the G7 scheme.

Germany says ‘sham referendums’ in eastern Ukraine are not acceptable

Germany has accused Russia of organising “sham referendums” in the regions of eastern Ukraine to formally annex the occupied territories.

Chancellor Olaf Scholz stated the referendums are a breach of international law and will not be recognised by the international community.

“It is very clear that these sham referendums cannot be accepted, they are not compatible with the international law,” he told reporters in New York where world leaders are meeting for the UN General Assembly.

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