Monday, June 24, 2024

Live Update: Russia’s “Special Operation” in Ukraine; Day 264

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:

CIA director met with his Russian counterpart about Ukraine

William J. Burns, the director of the Central Intelligence Agency, met with his Russian counterpart in Turkey on Monday to warn Russia against the use of nuclear weapons in Ukraine, a White House spokesman said.

The National Security Council announced Burns’s meeting in Ankara was not in any way meant to negotiate or to discuss any settlement of the war in Ukraine. Ukraine was briefed in advance on the trip, the spokesman added.

President Joe Biden has insisted that Ukraine, and not the United States, will dictate if and when negotiations commence to end the war.

Burns was also set to raise the case of Americans detained in Russia, the National Security Council noted.

Dmitri Peskov, the Kremlin’s spokesman, would not confirm or deny whether the meeting took place.

Russia “in no position” to be setting rules for negotiations: Ukraine

Russia is “in no position” to be setting rules for negotiations, stated a Ukrainian foreign ministry spokesperson on Monday.

“Russia is in no position to laying down the rules,” Oleh Nikolenko, spokesperson for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine, said during a press conference.

“The peace formula for Ukraine remains unchanged: Immediate cessation of the war, withdrawal of all Russian troops, restoration of Ukrainian territorial integrity, damages reimbursement and provision of effective guarantees of non-repetition of aggression,” Nikolenko continued.

“Achieving sustainable peace is impossible under any other conditions,” the official added.

UN working “nonstop” to renew the “essential” Black Sea Grain Initiative: UN chief

The United Nations is “working nonstop” to renew the “essential” Black Sea Grain Initiative, according to UN chief António Guterres.

Speaking during a press conference at the G20 summit in Bali on Monday, Guterres said the UN is trying to resolve all remaining issues around payments and to “renew the Black Sea Grain Initiative.”

Guterres stressed the effectiveness of the UN brokered grain deal in helping “to stabilize markets and bring food prices down.”

“The Black Sea grain initiatives and efforts to ensure Russian food and fertilizers can flow to global markets are essential to global food security,” he added.

He expressed his hope to meet with both the Russian and Ukrainian delegations during the summit and “remove the last obstacles” blocking the restoration of the deal.

Putin’s aim is to “leave Ukraine cold and dark this winter”: NATO chief

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s aim is to “leave Ukraine cold and dark this winter,” NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg stated on Monday.

Russia’s withdrawal from Kherson has shown the “incredible courage of Ukrainian armed forces,” said Stoltenberg. However, “it also shows the importance of our continued support to Ukraine.”

The NATO chief was speaking during a press conference in The Hague with Dutch Foreign Minister Wopke Hoekstra and Dutch Defense Minister Kajsa Ollongren.

“We should not make the mistake of underestimating Russia. The Russian armed forces retain significant capabilities as well as a large number of troops and Russia has demonstrated the willingness to bear significant losses. They have also shown extreme brutality,” Stoltenberg contiued.

“The coming months will be difficult. Putin’s aim is to leave Ukraine cold and dark this winter so we must stay the course,” he added.

Draft IAEA board resolution calls for Russia to ‘cease actions’ in Ukraine: Report

A draft of what would be the third resolution by the United Nations nuclear watchdog’s board on the war in Ukraine again calls on Russia to cease all actions against Ukraine’s nuclear facilities including Zaporizhzhia, the Reuters news agency has reported, citing a version of the text it has seen.

“[The board] calls upon the Russian Federation to abandon its baseless claims of ownership of the Zaporizhzyha Nuclear Power Plant, to immediately withdraw its military and other personnel from the plant, and to cease all actions against, and at, the plant and any other nuclear facility in Ukraine,” Reuters quoted the text as saying.

The draft resolution was reportedly circulated by Canada to other countries on the 35-nation Board of Governors ahead of a meeting later this week.

Biden, Xi ‘agreed’ opposition to nuclear weapons use in Ukraine

US President Joe Biden and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping reiterated “their agreement that a nuclear war should never be fought” during their first in-person meeting since the former leader took office, according to a readout of the meeting published by the White House.

“The two leaders exchanged views on key regional and global challenges. President Biden raised Russia’s brutal war against Ukraine and Russia’s irresponsible threats of nuclear use,” the White House readout of the pair’s talks in Bali said.

“President Biden and President Xi reiterated their agreement that a nuclear war should never be fought and can never be won and underscored their opposition to the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons in Ukraine,” it added.

Xi and Biden are both in Bali to attend the upcoming Group of 20 (G20) summit of large economies.

Ukraine working to restore power lines to Kherson after all four were destroyed

“All possible measures” are being undertaken to restore electricity supply to the formerly occupied southern city of Kherson, Ukraine’s top official in the region said Monday.

“We must understand that all four power lines that supplied electricity to Kherson region are destroyed,” stated Yaroslav Yanushevych, head of the Kherson region military administration, standing alongside President Volodymyr Zelensky.

“In cooperation with NPC Ukrenergo (Ukraine’s national energy company) we are working on solving this problem day and night,” Yanushevych continued, adding, “The power will be restored in the near future.”

Kremlin says Kherson is still Russian after Zelensky visit

The Kremlin insisted that Kherson was still part of Russia after Ukrainian leader Volodymyr Zelensky visited the southern city from which Moscow’s troops retreated last week.

“We leave this without comment,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said of Zelensky’s visit to Kherson, adding however: “You know, this territory is part of the Russian Federation.”

Zelensky visited the newly liberated city for the first time on Monday where he thanked the West for Himars rockets that helped in its recapture.

Zelensky visits newly-retaken Kherson city, says “we are moving forward”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky visited the formerly Russian-occupied city of Kherson on Monday.

“We are moving forward,” Zelensky told a military formation in the city’s main square, Reuters reported, adding, “We are ready for peace, peace for all our country.”

The president told a group of reporters that he thought it was necessary to visit the city.

“The military takes risks every day, journalists take risks,” he said.

“I think it is necessary to be here and talk about Kherson residents, to support people. To make them feel that we are not only talking about it, but we are really returning, really raising our flag,” he continued.

“I would also like, in a human way, to get the emotion, the energy from people. It is motivating,” Zelensky stated.

On Saturday, crowds celebrated the liberation of Kherson city after Ukrainian forces swept into the regional capital and Russian troops retreated to the east.

But life remains far from normal, with authorities warning residents to be wary of explosives littering the city, and Russian forces still nearby — just across the strategically important Dnipro River.

UK says winter will ‘change conflict conditions’ in Ukraine

The United Kingdom’s Ministry of Defence says the winter months ahead “will bring a change in conflict conditions for both Russian and Ukrainian forces” and result in “more static” front lines.

“Changes to daylight hours, temperature and weather will present unique challenges for fighting soldiers,” the ministry announced in its latest daily intelligence update.

“Daylight will reduce to fewer than 9 hours a day, compared to 15-16 in the height of summer. This results in fewer offensives and more static defensive frontlines,” it added.

“The average high temperature will drop from 13 degrees Celsius through September to November, to zero through December to February. Forces lacking in winter weather clothing and accommodation are highly likely to suffer from non-freezing cold injuries,” it noted.

Kremlin describes talks with UN on grain deal as ‘constructive’

The Kremlin has said that work to renew the Black Sea grain export deal is ongoing and described talks with the United Nations last week over the agreement as “fairly constructive”.

Senior UN officials met a Russian delegation in Geneva on Friday to discuss Moscow’s grievances about the grains export initiative, which aims to ensure safe passage of grain from Ukrainian ports despite the conflict in Ukraine.

“We are actually still a week away from the extension date [November 19], so work is ongoing,” the Kremlin announced.

Ukraine’s military warns Russia may increase attacks in liberated Kherson

The Ukrainian military on Monday warned that Russia may be planning to step up attacks on newly liberated parts of the southern Kherson region.

“The enemy is intensifying aerial reconnaissance, which may indicate that they are planning to strike at both military and civilian targets,” the Ukrainian military’s General Staff said in its regular update on Monday.

On Sunday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky warned the situation in Kherson “is still very dangerous,” adding that the “detention of Russian soldiers and mercenaries who were left behind, and neutralization of saboteurs, are also ongoing.”

In its update Monday, the General staff said the threat from mines “remains high” in liberated parts of Kherson.

“Units of the Defense Forces continue to carry out stabilization measures,” it added.

The warning comes after a family of four, including an 11-year-old child, were injured in an explosion after their car hit a mine in Kherson on Sunday, according to Ukrainian officials.

Decision on negotiations with Russia is up to Ukraine: EU’s diplomat

It is up to Ukraine to decide when to enter negotiations with Russia, the European Union’s top diplomat said on Monday, commenting on speculations the West might push Kyiv to start talks with Moscow.

“Ukraine will decide what to do. Our duty is to support them,” EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell stated as he arrived for a meeting of the bloc’s foreign ministers in Brussels.

Ukrainian military says it has liberated 179 settlements on west bank of the Dnipro River

The Ukrainian military says it has liberated 179 settlements on the west bank of the Dnipro River in the past week.

Military spokesman Vladyslav Nazarov stated the Russians “continue defensive operations and the construction of fortifications on the left (east) bank” of the river.

According to Nazarov, Russians have “14 ships on combat duty and one missile carrier equipped with eight cruise missiles ready for use” stationed in the Black Sea.

“In the Sea of ​​Azov, the enemy continues to control sea communications by keeping one ship on combat duty, and in the Mediterranean Sea, there are 10 enemy ships on combat duty, 5 of them carrying Kalibr cruise missiles, with a total salvo of 76 missiles,” the Navy of the Armed Forces of Ukraine announced on Facebook Sunday.

At least 430 children killed as a result of Russia’s invasion: Ukraine’s prosecutor general

At least 430 children have been killed as a result of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and a further 1,260 children have been wounded, according to Ukraine’s prosecutor general.

In a statement, the prosecutor general’s office said it was still working on establishing the number of children killed or injured in frontline areas, recently liberated places and parts of Ukraine still occupied by Russian forces.

The eastern Donetsk region, where fighting has been particularly fierce, has seen the highest number of child victims. It is followed by Kharkiv, Kyiv and Mykolaiv, according to the prosecutor general.

At least 332 schools and educational institutions in Ukraine have been destroyed since February as the war rages, with a further 2,719 damaged.

Zelensky: Investigators found evidence of over 400 war crimes in liberated Kherson region

Investigators have uncovered more than 400 cases of alleged Russian war crimes in the Kherson region since the exit of Moscow’s forces from the area, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said.

“Investigators have already documented more than 400 Russian war crimes, the bodies of both civilians and military personnel are being found,” Zelensky stated in his nightly address.

“In the Kherson region, the Russian army left behind the same atrocities as in other regions of our country where it was able to enter,” he continued.

The president added that “detention of Russian soldiers and mercenaries who were left behind, and neutralization of saboteurs, are also ongoing.”

Zelensky warned “the situation in the Kherson region is still very dangerous.”

“First of all, there are mines. Unfortunately, one of our sappers was killed, and four others were injured while clearing mines,” he noted.

Zelensky was echoing warnings voiced by a local Ukrainian official earlier Sunday, who told Kherson region residents to beware of encounters with Russian soldiers and to look out for mines or missile strikes from Moscow’s military.

United States will send additional military aid to Ukraine soon: National security adviser

The United States is set to announce a further package of military support to Ukraine in the next few weeks, according to national security adviser to president Joe Biden, Jake Sullivan.

“We remain solid in providing security assistance. You know there is one assistance package that we have just announced, there will be another in the next few weeks – after a similar amount of time and the same amount that we have been sticking to for the past weeks and months,” he noted.

“There will be no slackening in our support or deviation from the frequency and intensity of that support,” he continued.

Authorities in Kherson impose nighttime curfew

Kherson authorities have decided to impose a curfew from 5pm to 8am (15:00 to 06:00 GMT) and ban people from leaving or entering the city as a security measure.

“The enemy mined all critical infrastructure objects,” Yanushevych told Ukrainian TV, adding, “We are trying to meet within a few days and [then] open the city.”

Russian forces have withdrawn from the city, but they are not far from it, and artillery exchanges echoed over Kherson on Sunday. This did not discourage crowds of jubilant, flag-waving residents from celebrating on the main square.

Russia mined ‘nearly everything’ in Kherson: Local official

Governor Yaroslav Yanushevych reportedly asked residents of the recently liberated city of Kherson to avoid gathering in the central part of the regional capital due to the presence of mines, The Kyiv Independent reports.

“The enemy has mined nearly everything. Please, avoid crowded places,” Yanushevych was quoted as saying.

US official believes sanctions on Russia could extend beyond war’s end: Report

Some sanctions on Moscow could stay in place even after a potential peace deal with Ukraine, US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen tells The Wall Street Journal.

“I suppose in the context of some peace agreement, adjustment of sanctions is possible and could be appropriate,” Yellen stated during an interview on the Indonesian island of Bali ahead of the G20 summit there.

“We would probably feel, given what’s happened, that probably some sanctions should stay in place,” she added.

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