Monday, June 24, 2024

Live Update: Russia’s “Special Operation” in Ukraine; Day 262

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:

Turkey seeks Ukraine peace talks despite Western actions: Erdogan

Ankara is committed to seeking a peace dialogue between Russia and Ukraine, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan stated on Saturday, as he accused the United States and other Western countries of provoking Moscow.

State broadcaster TRT quoted Erdogan as saying: “The West, and especially the US, is attacking Russia seemingly endlessly,” without elaborating on what he meant.

“Of course, Russia is displaying great resistance in the face of all this,” Erdogan added.

Western countries have armed Kyiv and provided other assistance and have also imposed stringent sanctions on Moscow since its invasion of Ukraine in February.

“We are working on how to create a peace corridor here, like we had the grain corridor. We think the best way for this is a path from dialogue to peace,” Erdogan said, adding Ukraine’s view would be important.

NATO member Turkey hosted talks between Ukrainian and Russian delegations earlier this year, and has sought to balance its criticism of the invasion and opposition to the sanctions.

Ankara and the UN brokered a deal to re-start Ukrainian grain exports from Black Sea ports over the last four months.

Erdogan noted “it would be wrong” for Turkey to propose a specific time frame for extending the deal beyond its Nov. 19 deadline but added it should run “as long as possible.”

There have been no public attempts to reconvene peace talks between the two sides since initiatives to bring about a ceasefire in Istanbul during the first weeks of the conflict broke down without progress.

Ukraine denied on Tuesday that it was under Western pressure to negotiate with Russia, doubling down on its insistence that talks could be held only if Russia relinquishes all of the territory it has occupied since the February invasion.

Russia announced on Friday that it was committed to achieving the goals of what it calls its “special military operation” in Ukraine, adding such goals could be achieved through peace talks but that Kyiv’s position meant holding peace talks was impossible.

‘Nearly all of Mykolaiv province recaptured’

The governor of Mykolaiv province, which borders Kherson, says almost the entire region is now under Ukrainian control.

Russian forces have failed to capture the province despite months of attacks.

Governor Vitaliy Kim wrote on Telegram that the entire region, save for the Kinburn cape in the south, had been returned to Ukrainian control.

“Now it’s official: the entire Mykolaiv region (except Kinburn) has been liberated,” he added.

Internet being returned to Kherson

The Ukrainian military has set up an internet hotspot in central Kherson, allowing residents to contact loved ones after weeks without connectivity.

Internet in Kherson had been largely unavailable in recent weeks, with reports that Russian forces were dismantling local infrastructure in preparation for their withdrawal.

Internet service has been patchy throughout the occupation. With mobile and internet data being rerouted through Russian networks, many were also concerned about their communications being monitored.

US hails ‘extraordinary victory’ in Kherson

The US hailed Ukraine’s “extraordinary victory” in recapturing Kherson from the Russians on Saturday.

“It’s a big moment and it’s due to the incredible tenacity and skill of the Ukrainians, backed by the relentless and united support of the United States and our allies,” US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said.

Celebrations were continuing in the city on Saturday with footage showing jubilant scenes.

But Ukraine’s foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba warned against complacency, stating, “We are winning battles on the ground. But the war continues.”

Ukraine FM says ‘war goes on’ after Kherson victory

The Ukrainian foreign minister, Dmytro Kuleba, stated on Saturday that the “war goes on” after the success of retaking the city of Kherson.

Speaking at the Association of South-east Asian Nations summit in Cambodia, Kuleba said the fight to liberate the country would continue.

“We are winning battles on the ground. But the war continues,” he told reporters in Phnom Penh.

Earlier, Kuleba noted he understood that “everyone wants this war to end as soon as possible. We are definitely the ones who want that more than anyone else … But as long as the war continues, and we see Russia mobilising more conscripts and bringing more weapons to Ukraine, of course we will continue to count on your continued support”.

Ukraine urges ASEAN bloc to stop Russia’s ‘hunger games’

Ukraine’s foreign minister has urged members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to take all measures possible to stop Russia from playing “hunger games” over a deal to allow shipments of grain to leave Ukrainian ports on the Black Sea.

The deal, which was brokered by the United Nations and Turkey in July, allows for the export of food and fertilisers from several of Ukraine’s Black Sea ports. It could expire on November 19 if either Russia or Ukraine object to its extension.

The United Nations says more than 10 million tonnes of grain and other produce have been exported under the deal, and had previously warned that Russia’s war on Ukraine was worsening a global food crisis and pushing tens of millions more people into hunger.

“I call on all ASEAN members to take every method possible to stop Russia from playing hunger games with the world,” Ukraine foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba told a news conference on the sidelines of an ASEAN summit on Saturday.

Russia’s implementation of the deal should be scrutinised and measures should be taken to ensure Russian inspectors are not intentionally delaying shipments and forcing global prices to rise.

“It’s not enough just to keep Russia on board. It’s also important to make sure that Russian inspectors who participate in this initiative, that they act in good faith and that they inspect ships without any artificial delays,” he stated from the summit in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

Countries in Africa and Asia were suffering as a result of the delayed shipments, he added.

Kuleba noted he had discussed with ASEAN leaders ways in which they could support Ukraine, and that he had conveyed to them that adopting neutrality and not condemning Russia was against their interests.

“The worst thing that a country can do is nothing,” he continued.

Ukraine is joining the ASEAN summit and a parallel East Asian Summit for the first time.

Along with nine ASEAN member states, leaders of the United States, Japan, South Korea and Australia are among those also attending, as is Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov.

Kuleba said Lavrov had not requested a meeting with him during the summit, as would be the norm in international diplomacy.

“If he does we will thoroughly consider his request,” Kuleba continued, adding that Russia must approach all negotiations in good faith.

“There is not a single indicator that Russia is sincerely seeking negotiations,” he stated.

Ukraine prepares to bring services to liberated southern cities

Ukrainian authorities are beginning the hard work of rebuilding in territories recently liberated in their southern counteroffensive.

The head of the regional military administration of Mykolaiv, which neighbors Kherson, visited the small city of Snihurivka Friday to discuss “the restoration of life in the liberated territories of the region.”

“We are already working on providing the liberated communities with electricity and communication and restoring the TV signal. Tomorrow we expect to replenish warehouses with humanitarian aid for the population,” the leader, Vitalii Kim, said.

He commended hospital staff in the city for working through the Russian occupation.

He also urged locals to beware of any explosives left behind by the Russians.

“Despite the fact that the relevant services have already started (removing mines in) the liberated territories, I warn local residents to be careful,” Kim added.

Zelensky: Ukrainian special units are in Kherson city, with more military and government services on the way

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said that Friday has been “a historic day” for Ukraine after Russia announced its withdrawal from the west bank of the Kherson region.

“We are returning the south of our country, we are returning Kherson,” he added.

“As of now, our defenders are on the outskirts of the city. Just a little more to go and we will enter. But special units are already in the city,” he continued.

The president talked about the appearance of Ukrainian flags in the city even before the military arrived, saying, “I am happy to see how people, despite all the threats, despite the repressions, abuse of the occupiers, kept Ukrainian flags, believed in Ukraine.”

Zelensky expressed his gratitude to the military units involved in the operation — “absolutely everyone, from privates to generals, the Armed Forces, intelligence, the Security Service of Ukraine, the National Guard — all those who brought this day closer for Kherson region.”

He noted stabilization measures would follow due to the threat of mines.

“The occupiers left a lot of mines and explosives, in particular at vital facilities. We will be clearing them,” he continued, adding, “Our defenders are followed by police, sappers, rescuers, power engineers … Medicine, communications, social services are returning. … Life is returning.”

Zelensky repeated what Ukraine’s Intelligence Directorate said earlier Friday, appealing to any Russian soldiers still on the west bank to surrender.

“We guarantee that you will be treated in accordance with the law and international standards. And to those Russian military who disguised themselves in civilian clothes and are hiding somewhere, I want to say that you cannot hide. We will find you anyway. Do not delay,” the president stated.

Russia bans entry to 200 US nationals

The Russian foreign ministry has announced it banned 200 US nationals from entering Russia, including the sister and two brothers of US President Joe Biden, in response to personal sanctions from Washington.

It said it has banned entry by Valerie Biden Owens, James Brian Biden and Francis William Biden.

White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre was also included on the list.

Germany promises more air defence help to Ukraine

Chancellor Olaf Scholz has said Germany’s priority in its aid to Ukraine should be to help it defend itself from Russian air raids on its cities and to help it rebuild its infrastructure.

He added in an interview with RND newspapers that Europe should prepare to receive more refugees from Ukraine.

“Russia is bombing Ukraine’s energy infrastructure. Russia wants to make sure people in Ukraine can’t survive the winter cold,” he said in an on-stage interview.

“We are currently discussing with many German companies what they can do to counter this destruction,” Scholz added.

Ukraine builds wall along border with Belarus: Kyiv

Ukraine has announced it was building a reinforced concrete wall and other fortifications along its border with Belarus, a close Kremlin ally that Moscow used as a staging ground for its February 24 invasion of Ukraine.

Presidential adviser Kyrylo Tymoshenko said a 3km-long barbed-wire-topped wall had gone up in the region of Volyn on the border with Belarus, which Kyiv says remains a threat. There were also sandbags and trenches, he said.

“That is not the end of it, but we are not going to disclose details,” the official added.

Biden calls for commitment to climate targets against backdrop of Ukraine war

US President Joe Biden has told the COP27 summit in Egypt that the war in Ukraine has made it more urgent than ever to double down on climate commitments, calling on every country to align with targets to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit).

“Russia’s war only enhances the urgency of the need to transition the world off its dependence on fossil fuels,” Biden noted at the meeting, being held in the Egyptian resort city of Sharm el-Sheikh.

Kyiv says 45 Ukrainians freed in prisoner swap

Forty-five Ukrainian soldiers have been freed in a prisoner exchange with Russia and the bodies of two killed Ukrainian soldiers have also been repatriated, the head of the Ukrainian presidential office has said.

The official, Andriy Yermak, provided no details on the number of Russians freed in the swap.

“Thanks to the Coordinating Staff on the Treatment of Prisoners of War. We are going on. Our people will return home,” he tweeted.

Ukraine says its forces have entered Kherson city

Ukraine’s defence intelligence agency says Ukrainian units have entered Kherson city following Russia’s withdrawal.

The statement by the Main Intelligence Directorate of the Ukrainian Ministry of Defence marked Kyiv’s first official confirmation that its forces had reached the regional capital.

The agency also said there were Russian forces still in Kherson who had been ordered by their commanders to change into civilian clothes and to hide and called on the troops to surrender at once, saying their safety would be guaranteed if they did so.

“You have only one chance to avoid death – immediately surrender,” it added.

Moscow announced earlier on Friday that all its forces had withdrawn from the city.

Russia says over 30,000 troops pulled back across the Dnieper River: Report

More than 30,000 Russian servicemen have been pulled back across the Dnieper River to its eastern bank, Russia’s Interfax news agency has quoted the country’s defence ministry as saying.

Interfax’s report came after the defence ministry noted earlier on Friday that it had completed the withdrawal of its troops from Kherson city, which sits on the western side of the river.

The ministry claimed there was not a single piece of military hardware or soldier left behind.

START nuclear treaty will be difficult to resume: Russia

Russia says it does not expect a quick breakthrough in talks with the US on resuming nuclear arms inspections.

The two countries agreed in March 2020 to halt mutual inspections under the New START treaty, the last surviving pact limiting their strategic nuclear arsenals, because of the pandemic.

However, they have failed to reach a deal to resume them.

Russian Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergei Ryabkov played down expectations of a breakthrough at a meeting in Cairo, which he said would take place in late November-early December.

“This isn’t a problem that started today or yesterday and it will hardly be possible to solve it in the course of a few days,” Russian news agencies quoted him as saying.

The US Department of State announced this week that “measures imposed as a result of Russia’s unprovoked war against Ukraine don’t prevent Russian inspectors from conducting New START treaty inspections in the United States” and hopes the upcoming meeting would lead to a resumption of inspections.

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