Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Live Update: Russia’s “Special Operation” in Ukraine; Day 263

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:

Biden set to discuss Ukraine with Xi

President Joe Biden is set to meet China’s leader Xi Jinping tomorrow – the first time he will have done so since taking office.

Ukraine is set to be among the talking points. The US president plans to be “unapologetic” in his defence of the country, officials have stated.

Russia will be “worried” and “disappointed” by loss of Kherson: UK

The UK’s defence secretary, Ben Wallace, said Russia will be “worried” and “disappointed” by the loss of Kherson.

However, he noted it is important not to “underestimate” Moscow, stressing “if they need more cannon fodder, that is what they’ll be doing”.

Speaking to broadcasters in Westminster, Wallace stated he would urge “caution” when considering the jubilant scenes on the streets of Kherson.

“Quite right, Ukraine has taken back the only objective of the many that Russia managed to capture back in sort of March. Kherson was one of the many objectives, Russia failed, now Ukraine has got that back,” he continued, adding, “It basically begs the question to the Russian population, effectively: What was it all for? But also it shows remarkable capability by Ukraine.”

He said Russia will be “worried” and “disappointed” by the loss of territory, but stated, “You never underestimate Russia. History will remind you that Russia can be brutal to their own. And if they need more cannon fodder, that is what they’ll be doing.”

He added that it is up to Ukraine to decide “when and how” it might want to negotiate with Russia.

Asked if now is the right time, he noted, “First of all, I don’t think we should be grateful when the thief gives back stolen goods – and that’s effectively what Russia has done.

“Now it’s going to sort of go around the world trying to say everyone should be grateful for that. No, they shouldn’t, Russia shouldn’t have done it in the first place in February.

“I think it’s up to the Ukrainians to decide when and how they want to negotiate. Ultimately, Ukraine will want to do that from a position of strength and momentum is with Ukraine. I can’t see why Ukraine would stop that.”

Russia rejects G20 focus on security

Russia has called for the G20 to stop talking about “imaginary threats” and focus on the world’s most pressing socio-economic problems.

The G20 is set to meet on the Indonesian island of Bali this week, with Western leaders including US President Joe Biden expected to use the high-profile forum to slam Russia publicly over the war in Ukraine.

In a statement issued ahead of the summit, Russia’s foreign ministry said it was “fundamentally important that the G20 concentrate its efforts on real, rather than imaginary, threats”.

It added, “We are convinced that the G20 is called upon to deal with socio-economic problems. Expanding its agenda into areas of peace and security, which many countries are talking about, is not viable. This would be a direct incursion on the mandate of the United Nations Security Council and will undermine the atmosphere of trust and cooperation in the G20.”

Russia’s foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, will head Russia’s delegation to the summit – the first since Moscow invaded Ukraine in February – after the Kremlin announced President Vladimir Putin was too busy to attend.

Ukrainian top diplomat comments on possible meeting with Russian FM

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmitry Kuleba said he would “carefully consider” meeting his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov should the latter “ask” for such talks. The diplomat made the remarks to the media on the sidelines of the summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), currently ongoing in Cambodia.

“He did not ask for a meeting, as is customary in diplomacy. If he does so, we will carefully consider his request, taking into account all aspects and realities of the current situation,” Kuleba stated, without elaborating if Kiev would actually agree to hold such a meeting, should Moscow ever send a request.

Ukraine has repeatedly sent mixed signals about the prospects of negotiating with Russia in an attempt to put an end to the ongoing conflict between the two nations. President Volodymyr Zelensky had earlier said Kiev had not “closed the door” for such talks, while reiterating his refusal to negotiate with his Russian counterpart, President Vladimir Putin.

“I said we would be ready to talk to Russia, but with a different Russia. One that is truly ready for peace. One that is ready to recognize that they are occupiers,” Zelensky told CNN.

Prior to that, Zelensky called on world leaders “to force Russia into real peace negotiations,” rolling out a list of conditions, ranging from the return of territory claimed by Kiev to financial reparations from Moscow. The Ukrainian president said previously that the only way to achieve such territorial goals may be to defeat Russia militarily.

The Russian stance on talks, however, remains unchanged, with Moscow repeatedly stating it is ready to negotiate without any preconditions. “We are still open to negotiations, we have never refused them, we are ready to conduct them,” Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said on Wednesday.

At the same time, Moscow suggested that Kiev is unable to act independently and thus lacks the ability to hold meaningful talks.

Over 80,800 Russian troops killed in war: Ukraine army

Ukraine’s armed forces has increased its death toll for Russian forces by 650, claiming more than 80,800 have now been killed since the start of the invasion.

South Korea vows to expand humanitarian support for Ukraine

The South Korean president, Yoon Suk-yeol, vowed on Sunday to expand humanitarian assistance for Ukraine as he condemned Russia’s invasion of the country as a violation of international laws, his office said.

Yoon was speaking at the East Asia Summit in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

Ukraine central bank says it is preparing banking system for blackouts

Ukraine’s Central Bank announced on Sunday it was preparing the country’s banking system to work in emergency conditions in connection with possible blackouts.

“It is envisaged to ensure the viability of 14 systemically important banks of the country. If absolutely necessary, the National Bank will primarily ensure the vital activities of state-owned banks,” the bank said on Telegram messaging apps.

Russia systematically attacks Ukrainian energy sector causing blackouts for significant parts of the country.

Biden administration divided over path ahead for Ukraine as top US general pushes for diplomacy

During internal conversations about the war in Ukraine, America’s top general, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley, has in recent weeks led a strong push to seek a diplomatic solution as fighting heads toward a winter lull.

But Milley’s position is not widely backed by US President Joe Biden’s national security team, including Sec. of State Antony Blinken and national security adviser Jake Sullivan, neither of whom believe it’s time to make a serious push for talks over Ukraine, according to two administration officials familiar with the discussion.

The result is a growing debate inside the administration over whether Ukraine’s recent gains on the battlefield should spark a renewed effort to seek some sort of negotiated end to the fighting, according to officials.

Milley’s push for peace has spilled into the public in recent days, just as Ukraine takes back the city of Kherson. In comments at the Economic Club of New York on Wednesday, Milley praised the Ukrainian army for fighting Russia to a stalemate, but said that an outright military victory is out of reach.

“When there’s an opportunity to negotiate, when peace can be achieved, seize it. Seize the moment,” Milley said.

The comments left administration officials unsurprised — given Milley’s advocacy for the position internally — but also raised concern among some about the administration appearing divided in the eyes of the Kremlin.

While some Biden officials are more open to exploring what diplomacy may look like, sources tell CNN most of the top diplomatic and national security officials are wary of giving Russian President Vladimir Putin any sort of leverage at the negotiating table and believe Ukrainians must determine when to hold talks, not the US.

“That’s up to the Ukrainians. Nothing about Ukraine without Ukraine,” President Biden stated at a Wednesday press conference when asked about the potential for talks.

In internal deliberations, officials say Milley has sought to make it clear that he is not urging a Ukrainian capitulation, but rather that he believes now is an optimal time to drive toward an end to the war before it drags into spring or beyond, leading to more death and destruction without changing the front lines, officials say.

Milley’s position comes as the US military has dug deep into US weapons stockpiles to support the Ukrainians and is currently scouring the globe for materials to support Ukraine heading into winter — such as heaters and generators — which has raised concerns about how long this war can be sustained, officials said.

Ukrainian authorities order curfew in Kherson

The Ukrainian authorities imposed a curfew in Kherson on Saturday and restricted entry and exit from the city, citing mine clearance efforts, Yaroslav Yanushevich, chief of Ukraine’s Kherson regional military administration, stated.

“We have to impose a curfew starting today, from 5 p.m. to 8 a.m.,” Yanushevich said in a video posted on the administration’s Telegram channel.

“I would also like to inform you that coming into the city and leaving it will be restricted to ensure demining activities,” he added.

Israeli military vehicle seen in Kherson

An Israeli-made military vehicle has been spotted being used by Ukrainian forces in Kherson, according to photos circulating on social media.

Tel Aviv has declined to send weapons to Ukraine but the sighting of an Israeli-made Gaia Amir MRAP suggests they have begun sending other forms of non-lethal military equipment.

Ukraine urges Russians remaining in Kherson to surrender

The Defence Intelligence of Ukraine has urged any Russians remaining in Kherson to surrender.

Ukrainian officials have said they suspect that Russia may have left some soldiers behind in the city, dressed in civilian clothing.

In a post on social media that provided detailed instructions for how to surrender, Defence Intelligence told any Russian soldiers remaining: “Your command left you to the mercy of your fate… Your commanders urge you to change into civilian clothes and try to escape from Kherson on your own. Obviously you won’t be able to…

“Every Russian soldier who resists [Ukrainian control] will be destroyed. You have only one chance to avoid death – immediately surrender… In case of voluntary surrender, Ukraine guarantees you the preservation of life and safety,” it added.

Russians destroyed Kherson’s critical infrastructure: Zelensky

Russian forces destroyed the critical infrastructure in the southern city of Kherson before fleeing, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said, adding that local authorities were starting to stabilise the city.

“Before fleeing from Kherson, the occupiers destroyed all the critical infrastructure: communications, water, heat, electricity,” Zelensky stated in a video address.

“[Russians] everywhere have the same goal: to humiliate people as much as possible. But we will restore everything, believe me,” he continued.

The president said Ukrainian troops have taken control of more than 60 settlements in the Kherson region.

“Police have launched stabilisation measures. Stabilisation measures are also underway in Kherson,” he added.

Ukrainian top diplomat thanks US for additional military aid and support

Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba has met US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on the sidelines of a summit in Cambodia.

Kuleba thanked the US top diplomat for the “upcoming decision” to send additional military aid to Kyiv, while also emphasising how Ukrainians “feel grateful to the US and the American people” for their support.

Ukrainian police, broadcasts return to long-occupied city

Ukrainian police officers and TV and radio services have returned to the southern city of Kherson as part of a fast but cautious effort to make it livable after months of occupation.

The chief of the National Police of Ukraine, Ihor Klymenko, said in a Facebook post that some 200 officers were at work in the city, setting up checkpoints and documenting evidence of possible war crimes.

Police teams also were working to identify and neutralise unexploded ordnance, and one sapper was injured Saturday while demining an administrative building, Klymenko said.

Ukraine’s communications watchdog said national TV and radio broadcasts had resumed in the city, and an adviser to Kherson’s mayor stated humanitarian aid and supplies had begun to arrive from the neighbouring Mykolaiv region.

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