Friday, December 2, 2022

Russia’s “Special Operation” in Ukraine; Day 240: US claims Iranian military personnel on ground in Crimea

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:

European diplomats urge UN to investigate Iran for supplying drones to Russia

Top British, French and German diplomats are urging the United Nations to investigate Iran’s supply of drones to Russia, according to a letter reviewed by CNN.

In the letter, officials argue that the weapons transfers violate a UN Security Council resolution restricting the flow of certain arms to or from Iran.

“We would welcome an investigation by the UN Secretariat team responsible for monitoring the implementation of UNSCR 2231 and stand ready to support the work of the Secretariat in conducting its technical and impartial investigation,” the diplomats wrote to UN Secretary General António Guterres Friday.

UNSCR 2231 was tied to the 2015 Iran nuclear deal. The diplomats stated both Iranian drone models were manufactured after the resolution entered into force and that the transfer “has not been permitted in advance by the Security Council.”

The three countries would like a UN team to visit Ukraine to investigate the matter, according to the letter.

Earlier this week, a Russian ambassador said Moscow would “reassess” cooperation with Guterres if a team of experts are sent to Ukraine to inspect the drones.

A growing number of countries and international organizations have condemned Russian-Iranian coordination on drone strikes, which have at times targeted civilian infrastructure.

Both Moscow and Tehran officials deny that Iran has supplied and trained Russia’s forces in using the deadly weapons.

Earlier this week, State Department spokesperson Ned Price noted the US has “abundant evidence” that Russia is using the Iranian drones, specifically to target Ukrainian civilians and critical civilian infrastructure. The White House added claims that Iran’s military gave the Russians hands-on training with the weapons.

Earlier this week the European Union and the United Kingdom rolled out sanctions on the manufacturers of Iranian drones.


US: Many Russian strikes conducted with Iranian drones

United States Secretary of State Antone Blinken claimed on Friday that “many” of Russia’s recent strikes on Ukrainian cities were conducted using Iranian drones.

“In recent days, we witnessed Moscow’s widespread strikes on civilian infrastructure in Ukraine. Many carried out using drones supplied by Iran,” Blinken stated during a joint press conference with French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna.

Both Moscow and Tehran officials deny that Iran has supplied and trained Russia’s forces in using the deadly weapons.


US sees no evidence Russia is interested in ending Ukraine aggression

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has said he has seen no evidence that Russia is interested in ending its aggression toward Ukraine and that Moscow was instead pushing in the opposite direction.

Washington would consider every means to advance diplomacy with Russia if it sees an opening, Blinken added during a news conference.


Russia ‘delaying’ grain exports from Ukraine: Zelensky

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky has accused Russia of “deliberately delaying” the export of grain from Ukrainian ports bound for countries in Africa and Asia.

“Today, more than 150 ships are in a queue to fulfil contractual obligations for the supply of our agricultural products,” Zelensky said in a video address.

“This is an artificial queue. It arose only because Russia is deliberately delaying the passage of ships,” he added.

He did not specify what was causing the delay.


Putin has been open to negotiations from the beginning: Kremlin

President Vladimir Putin has been open to negotiations with Ukraine “from the very beginning” and “nothing has changed”, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.

His comments came after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said his Russian counterpart’s stance had softened.

Peskov noted: “If you remember, President Putin tried to initiate talks with both NATO and the United States even before the special military operation.

“Putin was open to negotiations when a document was almost agreed on between Russian and Ukrainian [negotiators]. So in that respect, nothing has changed. The position of the Ukrainian side has changed … Ukrainian law now prohibits any negotiations,” he added.


EU to give Ukraine 1.5 billion euros in 2023

The European Union will give Kyiv 1.5 billion euros a month in 2023 to help Ukraine as it fights back Russia’s invading troops, the head of the bloc said.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said that the EU had given Ukraine 19 billion euros this year.

“It is very important for Ukraine to have a predictable and stable flow of income,” she stated, adding that Kyiv estimated its monthly needs at 3-4 billion euros “for the basics.”

The EU chief told a news conference the EU would finance 1.5 billion euros per month of that, with the rest expected to come from the United States and international institutions.

“That will give a total of 18 billion for the next year – an amount Ukraine can count on and where there is a stable and reliable, predictable flow of income,” she continued.


Ukrainian energy minister sees no sign of Zaporizhzhia deal

Ukraine’s energy minister says he sees no progress towards a deal involving Russia, Ukraine and the UN nuclear watchdog on resolving the situation at the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant.

Ukrainian Energy Minister Herman Halushchenko was asked by Reuters news agency if he saw progress towards a deal and said, “Not at this stage.”

Rafael Grossi, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, held talks in Moscow and Kyiv in an effort to secure an agreement on a safety and security protection zone around the plant.


Erdogan: Putin is ‘much softer and open to negotiations’

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan stated Russia’s Vladimir Putin appears to be “much softer and more open to negotiations” on ending the war in Ukraine than in the past.

“We are not without hope,” he said of the possibility of negotiations.

The Turkish leader also added he is optimistic that a UN and Turkish-brokered deal that allowed the shipment of millions of tonnes of Ukrainian grain to world markets can be extended.

“There is no obstacle concerning extending the shipping agreement,” Erdogan said, adding, “But if there is a blockage, there is no obstacle in us overcoming it.”


Kharkiv hit with S-300 missiles: Mayor

A rocket attack on industrial infrastructure hit the city of Kharkiv at 8am, noted regional governor Oleh Sinegubov.

On Telegram, he wrote: “All emergency services are on site … Information about the destruction and victims is being clarified.”

Kharkiv’s mayor, Ihor Terekhov, wrote on the messaging app that Kharkiv “was shelled with S-300 missiles”.


Ukrainian police complete exhumation of largest mass grave in de-occupied Lyman

Ukraine has completed the exhumation of bodies in the largest mass grave discovered following the retreat of Russian troops from the eastern city of Lyman, Ukrainian police announced.

According to the National Police of Ukraine, 146 bodies were exhumed at the Lyman cemetery in the Donetsk region, of which 111 were civilians and 35 military personnel.

Police said some of the victims died of shrapnel injuries from Russian shelling, adding some bodies showed signs of having suffered “a violent death,” without giving further details.

With the cemetery exhumations now complete, the number of bodies exhumed in Lyman now totals 166, of which five are children, according to police.

The victims will be reburied after a forensic medical examination while the exhumation of civilians buried elsewhere is ongoing, police added.


Ukraine accuses Iran of violating UN ban on drone transfers

Ukraine accused Iran of violating a United Nations Security Council ban on the transfer of drones capable of flying 300 kilometers and invited UN experts to inspect what it said were Iranian-origin drones being used by Russia against civilian targets.

Russia and Iran denied Wednesday the drones are Iranian.

A letter from Ukraine’s UN Ambassador Sergiy Kyslytsya to Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and members of the UN Security Council was obtained by The Associated Press ahead of a closed council meeting late Wednesday requested by Britain, France and the United States on Iran’s sale of hundreds of drones to Russia.

Russia’s deputy UN ambassador Dmitry Polyansky told reporters after the council meeting the unmanned aerial vehicles or UAVs used by the Russian army in Ukraine “are manufactured in Russia, so these are all baseless allegations.”

He accused Western nations of their “usual shameful practice” of trying to pressure Iran by leveling such accusations about its violation of resolution 2231.

Iran’s UN Ambassador Amir Saeid Iravani “categorically rejected unfounded and unsubstantiated claims that Iran has transferred UAVs for the use (in) the conflict in Ukraine,” and accused unnamed countries of trying to launch a disinformation campaign to “wrongly establish a link” with the UN resolution.

“Moreover, Iran is of the firm belief that none of its arms exports, including UAVs, to any country” violate resolution 2231, he added.


Russia planted mines at a hydroelectric dam: Zelensky

President Volodymyr Zelensky has accused Russia of planting mines at a hydroelectric dam in the Kherson region of southern Ukraine, which is under the control of Moscow’s forces.

“According to our information, the aggregate and dam of the Kakhovka hydroelectric power plant were mined by Russian terrorists,” Zelensky said in his daily address published on social networks.

“If the dam is destroyed… the North Crimean canal will simply disappear”, and this would be “a catastrophe on a grand scale”, he added.

Earlier on Thursday, Zelensky told the European Union that “Russia’s leadership has given the order to turn the energy system itself into a battlefield.”

Speaking via videolink he warned that would spur a new wave of Ukrainian refugees fleeing to Europe.

“The consequences of this are very dangerous, again for all of us in Europe,” the president told EU leaders meeting in Brussels for a summit.


Biden ‘worried’ about Ukraine aid if Republicans win Congress

US President Joe Biden has expressed concern about the prospects for future US assistance to Ukraine if Republicans win control of one or both houses of Congress in the November 8 midterm elections.

“I am worried,” Biden told reporters during a stop at a sandwich shop in Pittsburgh when asked about the effect on Ukraine aid if Republicans win.

Experts say support for Ukraine generally remains strong among the majority of Republican legislators in the US. But a branch of the party has increasingly opposed the aid.

In recent days, the Republican leader in the House of Representatives, Kevin McCarthy, stated he would be “unwilling to write a blank check” for Ukraine if Republicans take control of the House from Democrats in the midterm elections.


Martial law shows Ukrainians in annexed regions didn’t want to join Russia: US

President Vladimir Putin’s imposition of martial law in annexed Ukrainian territories shows his claim people want to join Russia is a “lie”, US Department of State spokesman Ned Price told reporters.

“President Putin annexed these regions claiming that there were individuals in these regions who so desperately sought refuge from the Ukrainian state that they wanted to join Mother Russia,” Price said.

“Now, Putin is, I think, proving the lie by declaring martial law,” he added.

Putin declared martial law in Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhia on Wednesday, while giving greater emergency powers to the Russian-appointed heads of the regions.


Iranian ‘personnel’ helped Russian drone attacks from Crimea: White House

Iranian military personnel have assisted Russia in piloting drones from Russian-annexed Crimea, White House Spokesman John Kirby told reporters, adding that Washington was looking at imposing new sanctions on Tehran.

“We assess that Iranian military personnel were on the ground in Crimea and assisted Russia in these operations,” Kirby said on Thursday.

Kirby stated the Iranians in Crimea were trainers and tech support workers, and that the Russians were piloting the drones, which have caused significant damage to Ukrainian infrastructure.

“Tehran is now directly engaged on the ground, and through the provision of weapons that are impacting civilians and civilian infrastructure in Ukraine,” he continued.

Kirby noted that the Joe Biden administration would look for ways to make it harder for Tehran to sell such weapons to Russia, adding that, at this point, it was no longer focused on diplomacy and nuclear talks with Iran.

Iran has denied supplying its drones and missiles to Russia.


Russia ‘exploring arrangements’ with North Korea to aid war effort: US

Russia is “exploring arrangements” with North Korea to procure weapons to aid its offensive against Ukraine, the State Department announced Thursday.

Russia, “perhaps out of desperation,” has been turning to a series of countries, including Iran and North Korea, to procure “the wares that it is unable to produce or to acquire through other means,” said State Department spokesman Ned Price.

“Some of this is a reflection of the export controls of the sanctions of the economic trips that we’ve imposed on Russia,” he told reporters, adding, “The fact is that they don’t have the ability to organically produce, to import, the key inputs that they need, and so they’re turning to Iran, they’re exploring arrangements with North Korea.”

His comments came after the White House said in early September that Russia began the process to buy millions of artillery shells and rockets from North Korea to support its war effort.

The US assessment of Russia’s purchases was based on declassified US intelligence. It offered few details on the exact arms Russia was in the process of purchasing.

It is unclear what additional arms or technologies Russia may be seeking from North Korea following Price’s comments.


Moscow skips UN review of rights in Russia

Russian delegates did not appear at a meeting of the United Nations committee examining the human rights situation in the country.

Experts from the UN Human Rights Committee (OHCHR) had been due to come face to face with the Russian delegates at a public meeting over two days, but Friday’s second session was cancelled following Moscow’s absence at the first on Thursday.

“I regret that the Russian Federation hasn’t sent a delegation to respond,” said Marcia VJ Kran of Canada, a member of the body, which consists of 18 independent experts who monitor the implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights by state parties.

“We observe a disturbing trend of legal action against politicians who criticise the government,” Kran continued, adding, “We also have a serious concern about the use of sophisticated, state-developed poisons to silence, punish and kill at least a dozen prominent dissidents, opposition leaders and activists in the past decade.”

Russia was removed from the UN Human Rights Council following the invasion of Ukraine.


Ukraine calls on international allies for help with power infrastructure

Ukraine is turning to its global allies for help as it faces blackouts brought on by Russian attacks on its energy infrastructure.

Ukraine’s Foreign Minister, Dmytro Kuleba, said Thursday the Kyiv government is working with NATO, the European Union and other partners to overcome the effects of the Russian barrage, which knocked out at least 40% of the country’s power-generating capacity.

A statement from the Foreign Ministry added that Ukrainian diplomats have appealed to several dozen international and non-governmental organizations and private companies with a request for generators as well as equipment for the gas transportation system.

“The first deliveries have already been arranged from Italy, France, Lithuania, Finland, Germany and Poland. The first of about 600 pieces of equipment will arrive in Ukraine next week,” the statement reads.

“Russia’s targeted attacks on critical energy infrastructure are war crimes for which we will hold Russia accountable,” Kuleba stated, adding, “Russian missile terror will not break either Ukraine or our partners.”


Putin visits recently mobilized Russian troops at training ground

Russian President Vladimir Putin visited mobilized troops at a training ground in the western Ryazan region, according to a statement published by Kremlin on Thursday.

The statement said he inspected the “combat coordination of the units and the readiness of the military personnel to perform tasks” at the site in the Western Military District.

Russian Minister of Defense Sergei Shoigu presented Putin with a report on combat training for the mobilized, according to the statement.

“Vladimir Putin inspected practical exercises as part of tactical, firearms, engineering and medical training,” officials stated.

Putin also visited “a multifunctional shooting complex, where military personnel practice various types of shooting under the guidance of full-time commanders and professional instructors with combat experience,” according to the statement.

The Ministry of Defense announced instructors are training newly mobilized servicemen with “increased intensity.” Recruits fire at least 600 rounds and use five grenades in the course of their training, according to the ministry.

The Russian president announced in September that he sought to recruit 300,000 military personnel, but its execution has been widely criticized inside Russia.

The process has been beset by errors, caused angry protests and prompted a mass exodus when it was announced last month.

In early October, Shoigu noted more than 200,000 new people had joined the Russian Armed Forces through the mobilization.


US secretary of state calls latest Russian moves in Ukraine “another sign of Putin’s desperation”

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken described recent Russian attacks in Ukraine as another sign of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s “desperation” in a television interview this week.

Blinken’s remarks came in an interview with George Stephanopoulos that aired Wednesday on ABC’s “Good Morning America.”

Blinken also said Putin’s latest moves were “pretty close” when Stephanopoulos asked if Putin was preparing for “all-out war.” When asked if the Russian president was acting rationally, he stated that Putin’s “objectives are not rational.”

“We’ve been very clear with President Putin directly and privately about the severe consequences that would follow any, any use of nuclear weapons,” Blinken noted when asked about the potential use of nuclear weapons against Ukraine.

“We have not seen reason at this point to change our own nuclear posture,” he added.

“It’s helping to line Putin’s pockets,” Blinken said of Saudi Arabia and OPEC+’s recent decision to slash oil production, describing now as “exactly the wrong time to engage in production cuts.”

“There was no reason to make the decision when they made it,” he added, while also acknowledging: “We have a multiplicity of interests with Saudi Arabia.”

OPEC+ is a group of major oil producers, including Saudi Arabia and Russia. The countries announced a production cut equivalent to about 2% of global oil demand earlier this month, despite US pressure not to tighten supply further.

Russia’s production has held up better than predicted against Western sanctions for the invasion of Ukraine, with supply being diverted to China and India.


Russian-backed official claims about 15,000 civilians were relocated away from Kherson frontline

Around 15,000 civilians in the Russian-occupied part of Ukraine’s southern Kherson region have been “relocated” away from the frontline, Kirill Stremousov, a regional leader backed by Moscow stated Thursday.

“Already about 15,000 residents, having listened to the recommendations of the leadership of the Kherson region, have moved to the left bank of our region,” Stremousov said in a post on the Telegram messaging app.

Pro-Moscow officials in occupied Kherson plan to move up to 60,000 residents across the Dnipro River, further into Russian-held territory, amid fears of a Ukrainian counteroffensive on the southern front.

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