Monday, June 24, 2024

Live Update: Russia’s “Special Operation” in Ukraine; Day 220

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:

France could deliver up to 12 more Caesar howitzers to Ukraine: Report

France could deliver six to 12 new Caesar howitzers, originally destined for Denmark, to Ukraine, according to French newspaper Le Mond.

A French defence ministry spokesperson stated that while France supports Ukraine the details of this are “not meant to be communicated” when asked to comment on the report.

Russia’s expansion strategy resulted in “killing civilians it now claims are its own citizens”: UK

The British Ministry of Defence said Russia’s expansion strategy has resulted in “killing civilians it now claims are its own citizens.”

The latest intelligence update published Saturday, comes after President Vladimir Putin signed annexation agreements across four occupied regions in Ukraine, marking the largest forcible takeover of territory in Europe since the second world war.

The MoD noted Russia is expending “strategically valuable military assets” in attempts to gain tactical advantage.

It added, Russia “almost certainly” struck a convoy outside the town of Zaporizhzhia on Friday, where local media reported 30 civilians killed, and more than 50 injured.

Negotiations Possible but “with new president of Russia: Ukraine

A key adviser to Ukrainian president Zelenskiy, Mykhailo Podolyak, stated “negotiations are possible” but “with the new president of Russia.”

Tweeting on Saturday, Podolyak said there is no point in negotiation with those who “dance on bones” referring to Vladimir Putin and other officials.

UN watchdog asks Russian authorities about Ukrainian nuclear plant head

The International Atomic Energy Agency said it was seeking information about the director general of Ukraine’s Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant whom the state-owned company in charge of the plant said was detained by a Russian patrol. read more

“We have contacted Russian authorities and are requesting clarifications,” a spokesperson for the IAEA, the UN nuclear watchdog, stated in response to a query on Saturday.

Ukraine encircles Russian forces around Lyman stronghold

Ukraine has encircled Russia’s forces around a bastion that is critical for Moscow at the eastern town of Lyman, in an operation that is still under way, a Ukrainian military spokesperson noted on Saturday.

Russia’s forces at Lyman totalled around 5,000 to 5,500 soldiers, but the number of encircled troops may have fallen because of casualties and some soldiers trying to break out of the encirclement, stated Serhii Cherevatyi, spokesperson for Ukraine’s eastern forces, according to Reuters.

Turkey rejects Russia’s annexation of Ukrainian territory

Turkey’s Foreign Ministry said on Saturday it rejects Russia’s annexation of four regions in Ukraine, adding the decision is a “grave violation” of international law.

Turkey, a NATO member, has conducted a diplomatic balancing act since Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24. Ankara opposes Western sanctions on Russia and has close ties with both Moscow and Kyiv, its Black Sea neighbours. It has also criticised Russia’s invasion and sent armed drones to Ukraine.

The Turkish ministry said on Saturday it had not recognised Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014, adding that it rejects Russia’s decision to annex the four regions, Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia.

“This decision, which constitutes a grave violation of the established principles of international law, cannot be accepted,” the ministry said.

“We reiterate our support to the resolution of this war, the severity of which keeps growing, based on a just peace that will be reached through negotiations,” it added.

Russian President Vladimir Putin proclaimed the annexation of the regions on Friday, promising Moscow would triumph in its “special military operation” even as he faced a potentially serious new military reversal.

His proclamation came after Russia held what it called referendums in occupied areas of Ukraine. Western governments and Kyiv stressed the votes breached international law and were coercive and non-representative.

US national security adviser: Ukraine’s NATO application “should be taken up at a different time”

The United States believes the process for Ukraine to join NATO “should be taken up at a different time,” US President Joe Biden’s national security adviser Jake Sullivan said Friday, after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky claimed the country was applying for membership under an “accelerated procedure.”

“The United States has been clear for decades that we support an open-door policy for NATO,” Sullivan told reporters at a White House press briefing.

“Any decision on NATO membership is between the 30 allies and the countries aspiring to join,” he added.

“Right now, our view is that the best way for us to support Ukraine is through practical, on-the-ground support in Ukraine and that the process in Brussels should be taken up at a different time,” he continued.

Earlier Friday, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg noted member states of the alliance support Ukraine’s “right to choose its own path” but cautioned that any decision on membership has to be taken up by all 30 members of the alliance.

Obstacles to NATO accession will disappear “as soon as Russia loses”: Ukrainian official

A top Ukrainian official said that any obstacles to Ukraine’s NATO accession will disappear “as soon as Russia loses” – a tacit acknowledgment that alliance members are unlikely to agree on admitting the country while it is at war with Russia.

“As soon as Russia loses, after that, there will be no obstacle for Ukraine to join NATO,” Mykhailo Podolyak, adviser to the head of the Office of the Ukrainian President, stated on Ukrainian television.

“Those countries that are currently in doubt, after our victory, will be the first to vote” for Ukraine’s accession, he added.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky stated on Friday that his country is applying “under an accelerated procedure” to become a NATO member, while acknowledging that accession would require the consensus of all members.

Podolyak said that the membership application marks “the beginning of a new era for Ukraine.”

“We rejected any formal or informal agreements that we have neutral status, non-aligned status. The President clearly demonstrates that there is only one route for Ukraine, which our partners will support,” Podolyak aded.

And meanwhile, he noted, Ukraine’s efforts on the battlefield would continue.

“A counteroffensive continues on the Donetsk direction and in the southern direction,” he continued, stating, “Russia is not able to stop the Ukrainian Armed Forces except solely by the number of its people who are ready to lay their heads on Ukrainian soil.”

Baltic states say they support Ukraine’s NATO application

Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania said Friday they “fully support welcoming Ukraine into NATO as soon as possible.”

Their respective foreign ministers — Urmas Reinsalu, Edgars Rinkēvičs and Gabrielius Landsbergis — shared similar messages on their Twitter accounts.

“Ukraine’s inspirational bravery can only strengthen our alliance,” they all said.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky stated on Friday that his country is applying “under an accelerated procedure” to become a member of the defense alliance.

Russia vetoes UNSC bid against Ukraine annexations

Russia has vetoed a Western bid at the United Nations Security Council to condemn its annexations of Ukrainian territory, with China and India abstaining.

Western powers will now seek to pressure Russia through a vote of the General Assembly, which includes all countries.

The United States pushed through a resolution co-sponsored with Ukraine hours after Russian President Vladimir Putin announced that Moscow would take over areas of Ukraine seized in the invasion following Kremlin-organized referendums.

“This is exactly what the Security Council was made to do. Defend sovereignty, protect territorial integrity, promote peace and security,” the US ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, said at the start of the meeting.

Russia’s ambassador, Vassily Nebenzia, complained that it was unprecedented to seek condemnation of a permanent member of the Security Council.

“Do you seriously expect Russia to consider and support such a draft? And if not, then it turns out that you are intentionally pushing us to use the right of the veto in order to then wax lyrical about the fact that Russia abuses this right,” Nebenzia added.

The resolution would have condemned the “illegal” referendums held in Russian-occupied parts of Ukraine and call on all states not to recognise any changes to Ukraine’s borders.

It also would have called on Russia to withdraw troops immediately from Ukraine, ending an invasion launched on February 24.

Zelensky hails Ukraine’s progress in east

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has said that his country’s military achieved “significant results” in the east and mentioned Lyman, a Russian-occupied stronghold that pro-Moscow forces are struggling to keep control of.

Lyman has been at the centre of renewed fighting since Ukraine routed Russian forces in the nearby Kharkiv region in a lightning counteroffensive this month.

“We have significant results in the east of our country … everyone has heard what is happening in Lyman,” Zelensky stated in a video address.

“These are steps that mean a lot to us,” he added, but did not give details.

The head of the Russian-backed administration in the Donetsk region confirmed earlier on Friday that Lyman was “semi-encircled” by the Ukrainian army and that news from the front was “alarming”.

US Congress approves $12.3bn in aid to Ukraine

The US Congress has approved $12.3bn in aid to help Ukraine battle its invasion by Russia as part of a stopgap spending bill that averts a government shutdown ahead of a midnight deadline.

The package includes $3bn for arms, supplies and salaries for Ukraine’s military and authorises President Joe Biden to direct the Pentagon to transfer $3.7bn in weapons and other hardware to Ukraine.

The so-called “continuing resolution”, which passed by 230 votes to 201, with 10 Republicans joining the Democrats, also provides $4.5bn for Kyiv to keep the country’s finances stable and keep the government running.

The allocation, which was approved just hours after Russian President Vladimir Putin annexed four Moscow-occupied Ukrainian regions, takes the US contribution to the war effort to $65bn.

“This new grant assistance is a further demonstration of US confidence in Ukraine and will support critical government operations and provide relief to Ukrainian people suffering under Russia’s brutal war,” Secretary of the Treasury Janet Yellen said in a statement.

“Critically, this funding will also help bolster Ukraine’s valiant resistance to Putin’s illegal war of aggression. We call on fellow donors to not only speed up their existing disbursements to Ukraine, but also to increase their scale of assistance,” she added.

EU energy watchdog: Ukraine faces risks to energy supplies this winter

Ukraine is facing significant risks to energy supplies this winter as demand will grow while power generation may be disrupted by war, the director of the EU energy watchdog has warned.

Ukraine’s current power production appears to be sufficient to cover its needs after a fall in industrial activity cut consumption by 30 percent, said Artur Lorkowski, director of the Energy Community (EC) Secretariat.

“But I expect the situation may change dramatically, because once the heating season starts consumption will grow,” Lorkowski told Reuters.

He added Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant, which is currently held by Russia, was cut off from the grid, while some thermal power plants were located in combat areas.

But if the Zaporizhzhia plant remains offline for a longer time and other coal-fired power plants are down, it would mean Ukraine might need up to two billion cubic metres of extra gas.

Nearly 1.4 million Ukrainians currently do not have access either to electricity or gas, mostly in combat areas in the eastern and southeastern parts of the country, Lorkowski continued.

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