Saturday, May 18, 2024

Russia’s “Special Operation” in Ukraine; Day 232: Zelensky says Ukraine has 10% of air defenses it needs

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:

US citizen recently died in the Donbas region of Ukraine: State Department

A US citizen recently died in the eastern Donbas region of Ukraine, a US State Department spokesperson confirmed on Thursday.

“We are in touch with the family and are providing all appropriate assistance,” the spokesperson said, adding, “Out of respect for the family’s privacy during this difficult time, we have nothing further to add.”

The State Department did not indicate the manner of the death. CNN is working to confirm the identity of the American.

Zelensky suggests war crimes in Kharkiv ‘just as terrible’ as in Bucha and Irpin

President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has statedd the situation in the liberated Kharkiv region of eastern Ukraine was “just as terrible” as in the towns of Irpin and Bucha, where mass graves were found after Russian troops left.

He gave no further details in comments made in a video link with the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.

Russia has denied its forces have committed war crimes.

Russia’s Putin proposes “gas hub” plan to Turkey’s Erdoğan

Russian President Vladimir Putin suggested a “gas hub” plan to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Thursday, saying if there was interest from Turkey, they would consider its feasibility.

“If there is interest from Turkey and our potential buyers from other countries, we could consider the possibility of building another gas pipeline system and creating a gas hub in Turkey to sell to other countries — to third countries, primarily, of course; the European ones, if they are interested,” Putin stated on the side lines of the Conference on Interaction and Confidence-Building Measures in Asia summit in Astana in Kazakhstan.

If the hub was to go ahead, it would be a platform not only to supply but also to determine prices, Putin added.

“These prices are outrageous today. We could calmly regulate [them] at a normal market level without any political overtones,” he added.

Putin said to Erdogan on Thursday that Turkey was the “most reliable route” for gas to European countries.

“As for other hydrocarbon energy, including gas, our deliveries are in full volume in accordance with your requests,” Putin noted, adding, “We also carry out transit through Turkey to European countries. Turkey turned out to be the most reliable route for gas supplies to Europe today.”

In the same bilateral meeting, Erdogan told Putin that Turkey can help transport Russian grain and fertilizer to less developed countries.

“We can work together on coming up with the list of these countries because more so than the developed countries, we need to look out for the poorer countries,” Erdogan said, adding, “While the steps Turkey and Russia take on this may discomfort some circles, it will make less developed countries happy.”

Kremlin aide Yuri Ushakov previously suggested Erdogan could propose ideas for peace.

On Wednesday, Putin mentioned the prospect of a gas hub based in Turkey during Russia’s energy summit in Moscow, saying Moscow could redirect supplies intended for the damaged Nord Stream pipelines to the Black Sea to create it.

“We could move the lost volumes from the Nord Streams along the bottom of the Baltic Sea to the Black Sea region and thus make the main routes for the supply of our fuel, our natural gas to Europe through Turkey, creating the largest gas hub for Europe in Turkey,” Putin continued, adding, “That is, of course, if our partners are interested in this. And economic feasibility, of course.”

West applied diplomatic terror so UNGA could pass resolution against Russia: FM

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Thursday stated the West had applied diplomatic terror to developing countries so the UN General Assembly could pass an anti-Russian resolution regarding the referendums in the DPR, LPR and the Kherson and Zaporozhye regions.

“The methods of diplomatic terror were used by the West, shamelessly, openly twisting the arms of developing countries, and threatening them with all sorts of punishments,” he said on Channel One television.

“Only by such blatant blackmail, by such threats, was it possible to make that outcome possible. We understand everything perfectly well, and the statement by the Americans that they don’t pressure anyone and everyone votes as they will is a lie. And they know that too,” the foreign minister added.

Ukraine joining NATO ‘would guarantee World War Three’

Ukraine joining NATO would mean “a guaranteed escalation” to a third world war, the deputy secretary of Russia’s Security Council has said.

“Kyiv is well aware that such a step would mean a guaranteed escalation to a World War Three,” Alexander Venediktov, told the state TASS news agency in an interview on Thursday.

“Apparently, that’s what they are counting on – to create informational noise and draw attention to themselves once again,” he added.

Venediktov also repeated a Russian position that the West, by helping Ukraine, indicated that “they are a direct party to the conflict”.

It comes after Volodymyr Zelensky, the Ukrainian president,  announced a surprise bid for fast-track membership of the military alliance at the end of September.

Ukraine has only 10% of what it needs for air defenses: Zelensky

As deadly Russian airstrikes in Ukraine continued into a fourth day, President Volodymyr Zelensky reiterated his plea for more air defense capacities, saying Kyiv has only about 10% of what it needs to combat Moscow’s blitz.

“We are fighting a large country that has a lot of equipment and lots of missiles,” Zelensky said Thursday during a virtual address at the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly session.

“There is nothing I can add about that, we have about 10% of what we need,” Zelensky told European lawmakers.

He called on Western countries such as the United States and France to increase their military aid to Ukraine.

Zelensky’s plea comes amid one of the fiercest bombing campaigns that Russia has waged against Ukraine since invading the country in late February.

EU chief: West to give powerful response if nuclear weapons are used in Ukraine

The West will give a powerful response to Russia’s allegedly possible use of nuclear weapons against Ukraine, but that response won’t be nuclear, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell said on Thursday.

“It has to be clear that any nuclear attack against Ukraine will create an answer. Not a nuclear answer, but such a powerful answer from the military side that the Russian army would be annihilated,” he stated in a speech at the European Diplomatic Academy in Bruges.

Borrell brought up the statement by Russian President Vladimir Putin that Russia wasn’t bluffing when saying it would use all means at its disposal to defend its territory. The EU foreign policy chief said Western countries also aren’t bluffing when they warn about the consequences in the event that nuclear arms are used in Ukraine.

He added the world needs the conflict to stop. Borrell noted the EU “should continue supporting Ukraine and we have to continue looking for diplomatic solutions when possible. At the time being there are not.”

Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova stated on October 6 that Washington and other Western capitals may be interested in escalating the situation around the use of nuclear weapons in order to subsequently blame Moscow. According to the diplomat, that’s part of Washington’s destructive policy to ensure global dominance, without regard to the danger of provoking a direct armed clash of the largest nuclear powers, which is fraught with catastrophic consequences.

Russia’s war against Ukraine is a “crusade” against “collective West”: German chancellor

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine is “a crusade against what Putin calls the collective West,” German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said on Thursday.

“All along Vladimir Putin and his enablers have made one thing very clear, this war is not only about Ukraine, they consider the war against Ukraine as part of a larger crusade,” Scholz stated in a pre-recorded virtual speech at the Progressive Governance Summit.

“A crusade against liberal democracy, a crusade against the rules based on liberal order, a crusade against freedom and progress. A crusade against our way of life, a crusade against what Putin calls the collective West,” he continued.

Scholz added that Germany will support Ukraine financially, economically and for humanitarian and military needs.

“Including heavy weaponry, modern air defense system and tanks and make no mistakes we will continue our support as long as it takes,” he noted.

On Wednesday, Germany’s Economy Minister Robert Habeck said he is convinced Putin’s attempt to destabilize Europe’s economic order will fail.

“Putin will fail in his attempt to destabilize the basic economic order, the same way he will fail on the battlefield in Ukraine,” Habeck added, speaking at a news conference in Berlin.

No power cuts applied in Kyiv and other areas and none expected Thursday: National electricity company

The Ukrainian national electricity company Ukrenergo announced power cuts “were not applied” in Kyiv, the Kyiv region and the entire central region of the country despite ongoing Russian attacks on electricity infrastructure.

The company does not plan to introduce any further emergency shutdowns on Thursday, according to Volodymyr Kudrytskyi, CEO of Ukrenergo, in a statement.

It comes after strikes across the country targeting energy infrastructure resulted in rolling power outages across Ukraine earlier in the week.

“Yesterday evening, dispatching constraints were not applied in Kyiv, in the Kyiv region and the entire central region, restrictions were lifted in the Northeastern regions of our country since 7:55 p.m.,” said Kudrytskyi Thursday.

Ukrenergo and regional utilities have managed to stabilize the energy supply and residents in central Ukraine reduced consumption, he added.

“Whether there will be restrictions in the future depends primarily on whether there will be no new shelling and destruction,” he continued.

The head of the press office of the Ukrainian energy ministry Larysa Shustenko told CNN that they cannot anticipate when the grid and infrastructure will be fully restored because “attacks continue and some places were hit twice already.”

Russia summons German, Danish, Swedish envoys over Nord Stream probe

Russia’s Foreign Ministry recently summoned the German, Danish and Swedish ambassadors to Moscow over those countries’ probe into the Nord Stream attacks where Russia was not invited to participate.

“In recent days, the heads of the German, Danish and Swedish diplomatic missions to Moscow were summoned to the Russian Foreign Ministry. Russia expressed its perplexity at the lack of an official response to the request sent to those countries by Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin back on October 5 over the participation of this country’s competent agencies and Gazprom in the probe being carried out jointly by Berlin, Copenhagen and Stockholm into the sabotage on the Nord Stream 1 and 2 gas pipelines on September 26-27, 2022,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said.

Meanwhile, reports have been emerging about the involvement of third countries, including the US, in the investigation, the Russian diplomats added.

Russia’s MFA also warned that Moscow would not recognize the results of the probe unless Russian experts were invited to take part.

“It was stressed that if Russian experts are denied access to the ongoing investigation, Moscow will assume that the abovementioned countries have something to hide or that they are covering up the perpetrators of those terrorist acts. Naturally, Russia will not recognize any ‘pseudo-results’ of such an investigation unless Russian specialists participate,” the statement read.

On September 26, unprecedented damage was reported on three lines of the Nord Stream 1 and 2 offshore gas pipelines. Swedish seismologists later reported that two explosions had been recorded along the pipeline routes. FSB investigators opened a criminal case on charges of international terrorism.

Erdogan renews call for Ukraine war to stop: “Our priority is to end bloodshed”

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan reiterated his calls Thursday for an end to the war in Ukraine while speaking at a conference in Kazakhstan, where Russian President Vladimir Putin is in attendance.

“Each of us is feeling the regional and global impact of the crisis in Ukraine … Despite these difficulties on the ground, our priority is to end the bloodshed as soon as possible,” Erdogan said while delivering remarks.

Later Thursday, Erdogan and Putin are expected to meet for a bilateral meeting on the sidelines of the Conference on Interaction and Confidence-Building Measures in Asia (CICA) summit in the Kazakh capital Astana, according to Russian state-run news agency TASS.

Erdogan has repeatedly called for an end to the war and played a key role in the UN-brokered deal between Moscow and Kyiv this summer to allow the resumption of grain shipments from Black Sea ports in Ukraine.

NATO chief, US defense secretary reiterate support for Ukraine ahead of ministers meeting

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin reiterated their support for Ukraine ahead of a meeting of NATO defense ministers in Brussels on Thursday.

“We still stand by Ukraine for as long as it takes, we will step up our support and in particular we will provide more air defense assistance to Ukraine,” Stoltenberg said in Brussels alongside Austin.

Stoltenberg praised the UN General Assembly’s approval Wednesday of a resolution telling Russia its annexation of four Ukrainian zones is illegal and not valid, calling the vote a “clear condemnation of the illegal annexation of Ukrainian territories and a clear call on Russian President [Vladimir] Putin to reverse these decisions and respect the territorial integrity of Ukraine.”

“I absolutely agree with you … and I couldn’t have put it better,” Austin added, reiterating that the US will continue to support Ukraine “for as long as it takes.”

“I want to applaud all of our allies and partners who’ve stepped up to provide assistance to Ukraine,” Austin stated, noting, “This alliance is the essential forum for consultation, decision making and action when it comes to security of the region and transatlantic security as well.”

Austin reaffirmed Washington’s commitment to Article 5 — the principle that an attack on one member of NATO is an attack on all members — and to “defending every inch of NATO’s territory.”

Biden on UN vote: “Russia cannot change borders by force”

US President Joe Biden stated “the world has sent a clear message,” after the UN General Assembly (UNGA) overwhelmingly approved a resolution on Wednesday condemning Russia’s annexation of four Ukrainian zones as illegal.

“Russia is tearing at the very foundations of international peace and security. The stakes of this conflict are clear to all — and the world has sent a clear message in response: Russia cannot erase a sovereign state from the map. Russia cannot change borders by force. Russia cannot seize another country’s territory as its own,” Biden said in a statement Wednesday.

“Nearly eight months into this war, the world has just demonstrated that it is more united, and more determined than ever to hold Russia accountable for its violations,” he added.

Some 143 members of the United Nations voted to condemn Russia’s illegal annexation attempt of Luhansk, Donetsk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia following referendums derided by Western leaders as a sham. Only four UN members sided with Moscow — Belarus, North Korea, Nicaragua and Syria.

IMF estimates Ukraine needs $4 billion a month to keep government operating

The head of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) said Ukraine needs between $3 billion and $4 billion a month in external aid to make sure its government doesn’t collapse as it fights an increasingly brutal war against Russia.

“Our preliminary estimate is that somewhere between three and four billion dollars are necessary on a monthly basis,” IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva stated at an annual meeting of the IMF and World Bank in Washington, D.C.

The external aid would go toward the most basic economic needs of Ukraine, including social services, infrastructure and energy costs, Georgieva added.

Russia’s precision ammunition majorly depleted: NATO

Russia has depleted a significant proportion of its precision-guided ammunition during its invasion of Ukraine, according to a senior NATO official.

Reuters quoted the unnamed official as saying Russia’s military industry was unable to produce all kinds of ammunition and weapon systems due to Western sanctions.

He suggested it could take a few months for Russia to mobilise the 300,000 troops it is aiming for.

Increased financial support will help end war sooner: Zelensky

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky stated increased financial support from international donors will help end Russia’s devastating war in Ukraine more quickly, citing the need for $38bn to close next year’s estimated budget deficit.

“The more assistance Ukraine gets now, the sooner we’ll come to an end to the Russian war, and the sooner and more reliably we will guarantee that such a cruel war will not spread into other countries,” Zelensky said in a virtual address to a high-level forum during International Monetary Fund and World Bank annual meetings in Washington, DC.

Attacks on civilians in Ukraine “reveal the malice of Putin’s war of choice”: US defense secretary

US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said Russia’s recent attacks on civilians and civilian infrastructure in Ukraine “reveal the malice of Putin’s war of choice.”

Austin, who hosted a meeting of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group in Brussels on Wednesday, stated the “resolve” of allies and partners to help Ukraine has only solidified since the recent barrage of Russian attacks on civilians.

Austin held the meeting to discuss how to continue to support Ukraine in battling Russia’s ongoing invasion of the country, with more than 50 countries participating.

“That resolve has only been heightened by the deliberate cruelty of Russia’s new barrage of Ukraine cities,” Austin continued, adding, “Those assaults on targets with no military purpose again reveal the malice of Vladimir Putin’s war of choice, but Russia’s atrocities have further united the nations of good will that stand with Ukraine.”

Austin called the recent attacks a “grim preview” of a future where “appetites of aggressive autocrats outweigh the rights of peaceful states.”

““We would all be less secure in a world where big powers can assault their peaceful neighbors and trample their borders by force,” he added.”

Austin said the US and allies will “continue” to send capabilities, like High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) systems, that have helped Ukraine in their counter-offensive against Russia.

UN General Assembly condemns Russia’s ‘illegal annexation’

The United Nations General Assembly has overwhelmingly voted to condemn Russia’s annexations of parts of Ukraine after Moscow vetoed a similar effort in the Security Council.

The General Assembly approved the resolution by a 143-5 vote after a significant US diplomatic effort to seek clearer condemnation of Moscow.

Thirty-five nations abstained, including China, India, South Africa and Pakistan.

France to deliver anti-air systems to Ukraine in coming weeks: Macron

France will deliver radar and air defence systems to Ukraine in the coming weeks, in particular, to help Ukraine protect itself from drone attacks, French President Emmanuel Macron has said.

Speaking in an interview on France 2 television, Macron did not give details on what type of anti-aircraft missiles or how many would be delivered.

Paris has previously supplied Mistral shoulder-launched anti-aircraft missiles to Ukraine.

‘Never say never’ to peace talks: Kremlin adviser

In response to President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s refusal of talks with President Vladimir Putin, a foreign policy adviser to the Kremlin, Yuri Ushakov, told reporters in Moscow, “I would like to tell him [Zelenskyy]: never say never”.

Zelensky ruled out holding talks with his Russian counterpart after Moscow attempted to formally annex four regions of Ukraine, in a move that was widely condemned as illegal and meaningless.

Top US general suggests Russian strikes on civilians are war crimes

The top United States general has condemned Russian missile strikes on Ukraine that killed civilians, suggesting they met the definition of war crimes under the international rules of war.

“Russia has deliberately struck civilian infrastructure with the purpose of harming civilians,” Army General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said at NATO headquarters in Brussels.

“They have targeted the elderly, the women and the children of Ukraine,” he continued, adding, “Indiscriminate and deliberate attacks on civilian targets is a war crime in the international rules of war.”

Russian nuclear strike would trigger ‘physical response’: NATO

A Russian nuclear attack would change the course of the Ukraine conflict and almost certainly trigger a “physical response” from Kyiv’s allies and potentially from NATO, a senior NATO official said, according to Reuters.

The unnamed official warned any use of nuclear weapons by Moscow would have “unprecedented consequences” for Russia.

It would “almost certainly be drawing a physical response from many allies and potentially from NATO itself”, he noted.

The official added that Moscow mainly used its nuclear threats to deter NATO and other countries from directly entering its war on Ukraine.

Ukraine received air defence system from Germany: Report

Ukraine has received a delivery of the German IRIS-T air defence system, Der Spiegel magazine has reported.

The German defence ministry could not immediately confirm the report.

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