Thursday, June 20, 2024

Russia’s “Special Operation” in Ukraine; Day 230: Ukraine confirms 19 died, 105 wounded in Russia’s attacks on different cities

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:

G7 condemn Russian missile attacks and vows to hold Putin to ‘account’

Leaders of the Group of Seven (G7) condemned Russia’s most recent missile attacks on cities across Ukraine and said, “We will hold President Vladimir Putin and those responsible to account.”

“We condemn these attacks in the strongest possible terms and recall that indiscriminate attacks on innocent civilian populations constitute a war crime,” they added in a statement after talks with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

The G7 also warned Belarus against any further involvement in the conflict.

Zelensky tells G7 summit that Putin has ‘room for escalation’

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky told Group of Seven (G7) leaders that Russian President Vladimir Putin still had “room for escalation” after two days of widespread aerial strikes on cities across Ukraine, including Kyiv.

“The Russian leader, who is now in the final stage of his reign, still has room for further escalation,” Zelensky said.

This is “a threat to all of us”, he added.

Zelensky also mentioned the involvement of Belarus in the conflict and said, “Russia is trying to directly draw Belarus into this war, playing a provocation that we are allegedly preparing an attack on this country”.

“A mission of international observers may be stationed on the border of Ukraine and Belarus to monitor the security situation,” he added, calling on diplomats to work out the details of a deployment with G7 backing.

Zelensky also called on G7 leaders to give Ukraine enough air defence capabilities to stop Russia.

“I am asking you to strengthen the overall effort to help financially with the creation of an air shield for Ukraine. Millions of people will be grateful to the Group of Seven for such assistance,” the president continued.

France to step up military presence in eastern Europe: Defense minister’s office

France will step up its military presence in eastern Europe, with plans to deploy additional Rafale fighter jets in Lithuania and additional armoured vehicles and tanks in Romania, the office of the defense minister has announced.

Paris also plans to deploy additional infantry troops to Estonia, it said in a statement as Defense Minister Sebastien Lecornu presented the army’s draft budget to lawmakers.

Ukraine says 32 soldiers freed in prisoner swap with Russia

The Ukrainian presidency has announced that 32 of its soldiers have been freed and the body of an Israeli citizen recovered in the latest prisoner swap with Russia.

“Another exchange of prisoners took place today. We managed to free 32 of our soldiers and get back the body of Israeli citizen Dmytro Fialka,” Andriy Yermak, head of the president’s office, wrote on Telegram.

NATO plays key support role for Ukraine: Secretary general

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg pledged that the alliance would meet to “step up and support” Ukraine this week.

“NATO is not party to the conflict. But our support is playing a key role,” he said during a press conference Tuesday.

On Wednesday, NATO defense ministers will invite their Ukrainian counterpart to “discuss advanced air defense systems and other capabilities to Ukraine, and I look forward to further deliveries,” Stoltenberg stated.

“Ukraine has the momentum, and continues to have significant gains, while Russia is increasingly resorting to horrific and indiscriminate attacks on civilians and critical infrastructure. President Vladimir Putin is failing in Ukraine,” Stoltenberg added.

Referencing Putin’s veiled threats of a nuclear strike, Stoltenberg noted that “Russia knows that the nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought.”

“We are closely monitoring Russia’s nuclear forces; we have not seen any changes in Russia’s posture, but we remain vigilant,” he continued.

The secretary general called again for Putin to withdraw his troops from Ukraine.

He also addressed Belarus’ joint military deployments with Russia indirectly by saying that Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko should “stop the complicity of Belarus in this illegal conflict.”

Stoltenberg additionally said NATO had enhanced the protection of critical infrastructure following what he has called the “sabotage” of the Nord Stream pipelines, doubling its presence in the Baltic and North Seas to over 30 ships and increasing intelligence-sharing.

“Any attack [on] allies’ critical infrastructure would be met with a united and determined response,” he added.

Ukraine accuses Russia of abducting Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant official

Ukraine’s state nuclear operator has accused Russian forces of abducting a senior official at the Russian-held Zaporizhzhia atomic power plant.

Energoatom wrote on its Telegram channel that Valeriy Martyniuk, the plant’s deputy director general for human resources, had been kidnapped.

“They keep holding him at an unknown location and (are) probably using methods of torture and intimidation,” it added.

Energoatom called on International Atomic Energy Agency chief Rafael Grossi to take “all possible measures” to help free Martynyuk.

The plant has been held by Russian forces for months but operated by its Ukrainian staff.

Russia not working ‘against anyone’ in energy market

President Vladimir Putin said that Russia was not working against anyone in energy markets, a week after Washington criticised a decision by OPEC+ to cut oil production steeply.

Speaking with the president of the United Arab Emirates, Putin stated Russia aimed to create stability in energy markets and ensure supply and consumption were balanced.

“We are also actively working within the framework of OPEC+. I know your position, our actions, our decisions are not directed against anyone, we are not going to and do not do it in such a way as to create problems for anyone,” Putin noted at the meeting in Saint Petersburg.

“Our actions are aimed at creating stability in the global energy markets, so that both consumers of energy resources and those involved in production, suppliers to the global markets feel calm, stable and confident. So that the supply and demand would be balanced,” he added.

G7 summit will be ‘predictable’: Kremlin

The Kremlin says it has limited expectations of the G7 virtual meeting, where Zelenskyy is expected to speak and ask for more weapons.

In a call with reporters, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov stated, “The mood of this summit is already obvious and predictable. The confrontation will continue.”

New Russian missile attacks were reported on Tuesday that killed at least one person in Zaporizhzhia and left part of Lviv without power.

Other parts of the country remained without electricity after the most significant Russian air raids since the war began in February.

President Volodymyr Zelensky has stressed air defences are his priority.

Russia won’t refuse Putin-Biden meeting at G20 summit: Lavrov

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov says Moscow would not turn down a meeting between Presidents Putin and Biden at the upcoming G20 summit and would consider such a proposal if it receives an invite.

Lavrov stated on state television: “We have repeatedly said that we never refuse meetings. If there is a proposal, then we will consider it.”

He added that Russia was willing to listen to any suggestions regarding peace talks.

Russia says attacks continue on Ukraine’s military, energy facilities

Russia says it is continuing to launch long-range air attacks on Ukraine’s energy and military infrastructure.

The defence ministry announced Moscow “continued” to deploy “weapons against military command facilities and the energy system of Ukraine”.

Parts of the country were left without power following attacks across Ukraine on Monday, which were the biggest since the start of the war.

G7 leaders will discuss new Ukraine assistance and energy issues in Tuesday’s meeting

Heading into today’s G7 meeting, officials stated they expected two areas of primary focus for the group of leaders: determining where they can bolster support for Ukraine’s air defenses and the uncertain energy situation as winter approaches.

The meeting, which is underway now, had been in the works ahead of Monday’s bombardments in Kyiv and other cities but the meeting assumed a new urgency as Russia targeted civilian targets.

Officials have been working on a joint statement from the G7 to release when the meeting concludes, but it wasn’t clear that it would include major new joint announcements on sanctions, security assistance or energy independence from Russia.

One European official noted major deliverables weren’t expected to come out of the meeting.

Instead, the leaders hope to again demonstrate Western unity as they hear from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who officials expect will continue to call for better air defenses and more sanctions on Russia.

On Monday, Zelensky had separate phone conversations with six of the seven leaders of the G7 — US President Joe Biden, France’s Emmanuel Macron, Germany’s Olaf Scholz, the UK’s Liz Truss, Canada’s Justin Trudeau and Italy’s Mario Draghi.

Biden also spoke with German Chancellor Scholz, the G7 president, this weekend, partly to prepare for today’s call. While the White House didn’t mention the nuclear threat from Russia in its readout, the topic did arise in the conversation.

Russia declares Meta a terrorist organization

The Russian Federal Financial Monitoring Service has added the US multinational tech company Meta to its registry of organizations involved in terrorism and extremism.

The parent company of Facebook and Instagram has been banned in Russia, says Rosfinmonitoring.

That ban now requires banks to freeze funds for companies on that list and suspend services to their accounts.

On March 21, the Tverskoy District Court of Moscow recognized Meta as an extremist organization, claiming that Meta’s management allowed users from Ukraine to call for violence against the Russian military.

The court denied the appeal by the American company. The March court decision did not apply to the WhatsApp messenger, also owned by Meta, since it does not publicly disseminate information.

Russia fires more missiles at targets across Ukraine on Tuesday

Russia launched another round of missile attacks across Ukraine on Tuesday morning, the Ukrainian Armed Forces (UAF) said on Facebook.

“The enemy continues attacking Ukraine with high precision weapons,” the post read.

The missiles were launched from two Russian aircraft carriers at around 7 a.m. local time on Tuesday. The UAF claimed four missiles were shot down.

Air raid sirens have sounded in multiple regions of Ukraine, with officials appealing to residents on the messaging app Telegram to stay in shelters.

“A missile has been taken down in one of the regions,” Oleksiy Kuleba, governor of the Kyiv region, stated.

“Explosions are being heard in the Khmelnytsky region,” the head of the Khmelnytsky regional military administration, Serhii Hamalii, noted.

He claimed Ukrainian air defenses had shot down a drone.

The Vinnytsya region “has been struck”, governor Sergiy Borzov wrote on Telegram.

Maksym Kozytskyi, governor of Lviv in western Ukraine, has posted an update to Telegram noting, “At this moment, it is known about three explosions at two energy facilities in the Lviv region. Information about victims is yet to be received. The danger still continues.”

The Lviv region borders Poland, and is one of the furthest regions of Ukraine from the four areas in the east which Russia partially occupies and has claimed to “annex”.

The mayor of Lviv, Andriy Sadovyi, has also wrote on the Telegram messaging app that parts of the city are again without electricity following what he described as a “rocket attack on a critical infrastructure facility.”

Valentyn Reznichenko, governor of the Dnipropetrovsk, has posted to Telegram to claim that so far air defence systems had shot down four missiles over the region.

He warned residents to stay in shelters as “the attack continues”.

The Dnipropetrovsk region borders Donetsk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson, three of the occupied areas of Ukraine that Russia has claimed to “annex”.

Mykolaiv Gov. Vitaliy Kim linked the barrage of missile strikes on Monday and Tuesday to the new commander of Russian forces in Ukraine.

“It looks like the new commander of the Russian army played ‘red alert’ as a child too much,” he stated, adding, “It would be better if he read books.”

On Saturday, the Russian Defense Ministry announced the appointment of a new commander for what it calls its special military operation in Ukraine, according to Russian state media.

Russian missiles struck cities and critical infrastructure across Ukraine on Monday

Russian missiles struck cities and critical infrastructure across Ukraine on Monday

British spy chief: Ordinary Russians are counting the cost of Putin’s invasion

Ordinary Russians are increasingly counting the cost of the invasion of Ukraine and are seeing “how badly” President Vladimir Putin “has misjudged the situation,” according to the head of the United Kingdom’s largest spy agency, Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ).

“With little effective internal challenge, his decision-making has proved flawed. It’s a high stakes strategy that is leading to strategic errors in judgement. Their gains are being reversed,” Jeremy Fleming, director of GCHQ will say in a speech later on Tuesday at the RUSI Annual Security Lecture in London.

“The costs to Russia — in people and equipment are staggering. We know — and Russian commanders on the ground know — that their supplies and munitions are running out. Russia’s forces are exhausted,” he will note.

Fleming will also say Ukraine’s “courageous action on the battlefield” and “in cyberspace is turning the tide.”

“Having failed in two major military strategies already, Putin’s plan has hit the courageous reality of Ukrainian defense,” Fleming will state.

Fleming will deliver the comments a day after Russia launched a wave of attacks on Ukrainian cities on Monday, killing at least 19 people and wounding more than 100 others.

The senior spy chief will also add that ordinary Russians are “fleeing the draft.”

“They know their access to modern technologies and external influences will be drastically restricted. And they are feeling the extent of the dreadful human cost of his war of choice,” he will say.

Russian attacks across Ukraine killed at least 19 people and injured 105 others: Report

At least 19 people were killed and 105 others were injured in Russian missile attacks across Ukraine on Monday, according to preliminary data, the Ukrainian State Emergency Service said Tuesday.

Multiple explosions rocked Kyiv and several other Ukrainian cities reported blasts and power outages on Monday following a barrage of Russian strikes.

Critical and civil infrastructure was hit in 12 regions and the capital, where more than 30 fires broke out, the emergency services reported, adding the blazes have been put out.

As of early Tuesday morning, some areas in the regions of Kyiv, Lviv, Sumy, Ternopil, and Khmelnytsky remained without power, the emergency services said.

More than 1,000 people were involved in putting out fires and rescue operations, it added.

Kremlin warns of countermeasures against US, European allies over involvement in Ukraine

Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov has warned that Moscow could take “countermeasures” against the United States and its European allies due to their “increasing involvement” in the conflict in Ukraine, according to state news agency RIA Novosti.

“Russia will be forced to take adequate countermeasures, including those of an asymmetric nature,” Ryabkov said.

“It is obvious that a direct confrontation with the US and NATO is not in Russia’s interests. We are issuing a warning and hope that Washington and other Western capitals realize the danger of an out-of-control escalation,” he added.

On Monday, the United States and its European allies roundly condemned Russian airstrikes that hit Kyiv and other major Ukrainian cities.

In a call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, US President Joe Biden pledged to continue US security assistance, including advanced air defense systems, according to a White House readout of the call.

Russian MoD ‘increasingly factional’: UK

The UK Ministry of Defence has published its daily update from Ukraine, reporting that “the Russian Ministry of Defence (MoD) announced that General Sergei Surovikin had been appointed as overall commander of its Joint Group of Forces conducting the ‘special military operation’ in Ukraine” on 8 October.

“For much of its operation, Russia has likely lacked a single empowered field commander,” the MoD tweeted.

“Surovikin’ s appointment likely reflects an effort by the Russian national security community to improve the delivery of the operation. However, he will likely have to contest with an increasingly factional Russian MOD which is poorly resourced to achieve the political objectives it has been set in Ukraine,” it added.

Zelensky says air defences ‘number one priority in our defence cooperation’

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has said he spoke to US President Joe Biden about air defences after a series of Russian missile attacks on Ukrainian cities.

“Had a productive conversation with US President Joe Biden,” Zelensky wrote on the Telegram messaging app.

“The main topic of discussion was air defence. Currently, this is the number one priority in our defence cooperation,” he added.

Ukraine denounces Russia as ‘terrorist state’ at UN meeting

Ukraine’s ambassador to the United Nations has denounced Russia as a “terrorist state” during an urgent United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) meeting to discuss Moscow’s annexation of four Ukrainian regions.

“Russia has proven once again, that this is a terrorist state that must be deterred in the strongest possible ways,” said Sergiy Kyslytsya, speaking after Russia launched a deadly barrage of missile attacks at cities across Ukraine.

Biden spoke with Zelensky and pledged advanced air defense systems to Ukraine: White House

US President Joe Biden spoke with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Monday to condemn Russia’s recent missile strikes and pledge continued US security assistance, including advanced air defense systems, according to a White House readout of the call.

“He expressed his condemnation of Russia’s missile strikes across Ukraine, including in Kyiv, and conveyed his condolences to the loved ones of those killed and injured in these senseless attacks,” according to the White House readout.

“President Biden pledged to continue providing Ukraine with the support needed to defend itself, including advanced air defense systems,” it added.

The readout did not provide additional details on what advanced air defense systems were discussed.

“He also underscored his ongoing engagement with allies and partners to continue imposing costs on Russia, holding Russia accountable for its war crimes and atrocities, and providing Ukraine with security, economic, and humanitarian assistance,” the readout continued.

In a statement earlier Monday, Biden stressed the recent wave of Russian strikes “once again demonstrate the utter brutality of Mr. Vladimir Putin’s illegal war on the Ukrainian people.”

There will be a “day of reckoning” on Ukraine war: Top international prosecutor

Karim Ahmad Khan, the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), said he believes that there will be justice for war crimes committed during Russia’s war in Ukraine.

International law is going to “ensure that there will be a day of reckoning in Ukraine and other situations where any bully, any individual with a gun or with a missile, or with the capacity to inflict terror on the most vulnerable of our next generations, will realize that the law is there,” Khan told CNN on Monday.

“’The law may not be as strong as many people want, but it is not as weak as many people think. And the law is in play,” Khan added.

The ICC chief stated that he is “extremely concerned” by the civilian deaths following numerous Russian strikes that swept across Ukraine on Monday. He told CNN that the ICC would be conducting a criminal investigation.

“I have members of my office that last night were in bunkers along with many other civilians. Ukrainian children, women and men and this is a matter that engages issues of morality, issues of law and issues of empathy and humanity,” he said.

“We need to be there to get to the truth,” he added.

Zelensky says Ukraine not ‘intimidated’ by Russian raids

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky has said his country will not be “intimidated” by Russia’s missile raids on Ukrainian cities that killed at least 11 people.

“Ukraine cannot be intimidated. It can only be more united. Ukraine cannot be stopped,” Zelensky noted in a video shared on social media.

He also promised to make the “battlefield even more painful” for Russian troops.

Ukraine will continue offensive actions despite Russian strikes: FM

Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said Ukraine will continue to liberate territories across Ukraine despite a wave of Russian missile attacks on Monday.

“Whatever he [Putin] does, we will continue to liberate our territory,” Kuleba told CNN.

“This is the war for the existence of Ukraine. This is the war for the existence of international law and rule-based order. So he may escalate, he may do whatever he wants. But we are going to continue fighting and we will win,” he added.

Kuleba said the “vast majority” of targets in the Russian assault were energy facilities, adding saying that he is “not aware of any major military facility that was targeted. It was only energy facilities and civilian houses, apartment buildings.”

He noted that he believed the attack was an act of vengeance by Russian President Vladimir Putin following recent defeats on the battlefield.

“There should be no doubt that the goal of this attack was to terrorize a peaceful population and to make their life as difficult as possible. I’m pretty sure, I’m confident that this is the result of Putin’s defeat on the battleground. When his army cannot beat Ukrainian army, he chose to terrorize civilians in response as revenge,” Kuleba added.

When pressed on whether Ukraine was responsible for a massive explosion on a key strategic bridge linking Crimea and Russia, Kuleba stated that he doesn’t “know who blew up the bridge. I wouldn’t exclude something happening inside of Russia because this bridge is so heavily protected from all sides.”

UN publicly rejects Russia’s call for secret vote on Ukraine

The United Nations General Assembly has voted to reject Russia’s call for the 193-member body to hold a secret ballot this week on whether to condemn Moscow’s move to annex four partially occupied regions in Ukraine.

The General Assembly decided with 107 votes in favour that it would hold a public vote – and not a secret ballot – on a draft resolution that would condemn Russia’s “illegal so-called referenda” and the “attempted illegal annexation”.

Diplomats stated the vote on the resolution would likely be on Wednesday.

Only 13 countries on Monday opposed holding a public vote on the draft resolution, another 39 countries abstained and the remaining countries did not vote.

Russia had argued that a secret ballot was needed because Western lobbying meant that “it may be very difficult if positions are expressed publicly”.

At least 14 people were killed in Russian strikes across Ukraine

Russian missile strikes on Kyiv and several other Ukrainian cities killed at least 14 people and wounded 97 others on Monday, the Ukrainian State Emergency Service announced.

The strikes also knocked out power in the regions of Kyiv, Lviv, Sumy, Ternopil and Khmelnytsky, the agency added.

According to the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, Russia launched more than 84 missile and air strikes. Ukraine claimed it intercepted 56 of the missiles and drones.

The military said around 20 Ukrainian settlements were hit.

Global leaders have condemned the Russian attacks and vowed to continue to support Ukraine in its war efforts. Additionally, the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court stated the agency would be conducting a criminal investigation.

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