Sunday, May 19, 2024

Russia’s “Special Operation” in Ukraine; Day 273: European Parliament declares Russia as ‘state sponsor of terrorism’

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:

Moldova experiencing blackout as Russian missiles target infrastructure in Ukraine

Moldova is suffering a “massive blackout,” following a fresh wave of Russian missiles targeting critical infrastructure in Ukraine, Moldovan Deputy Prime Minister and Infrastructure Minister Andrei Spinu said Wednesday.

He added that the country’s transmission operator, Moldelectrica, “is working to reconnect more than 50% of the country to electricity.”

Last week, Moldova similarly suffered power cuts after Ukrainian energy facilities were targeted. Spinu had warned last week that the risks of power cuts remain high and that the Russian aggression against Ukraine “directly affects” Moldova.

Water, power supply cut in Ukraine capital after shelling

Water and power supply in Kyiv has been suspended after new air strikes targeted Ukrainian infrastructure.

Kyiv’s Mayor, Vitali Klitschko, wrote on Telegram: “Due to shelling, water supply has been suspended throughout Kyiv. “Kyivvodokanal” specialists are working to restore it as soon as possible.

“Please, just in case, stock up on water. Specialists are doing everything possible to return water to the homes of Kyiv residents. Power engineers are also working to restore power supply in the capital,” he added.

‘Massive attack on infrastructure facilities under way’: President’s office

Mykhailo Podolyak, head of the Ukrainian President’s office, noted “a new massive attack” on infrastructure facilities is under way.

“While someone is waiting for World Cup results and the number of goals scored, Ukrainians are waiting for another score – number of intercepted Russian missiles. A new massive attack on infrastructure facilities is underway. In NASAMS, IRIS-T and Air Defense Forces we trust,” he wrote on Twitter.

Russia’s parliament passes first reading of anti-sanctions regulation

Russia’s parliament passed the first reading of a bill to extend Moscow’s package of anti-sanctions regulation, the TASS news agency reported.

The bill must pass three readings in the State Duma before going to Russia’s upper house and President Vladimir Putin for final approval.

‘We need air defence systems and combat planes’: Ukrainian adviser

Anton Gerashchenko, an adviser to the minister of internal affairs of Ukraine, tweeted footage of the blast in Kyiv and said, “We need air defence systems and combat planes.

“Smoke is rising after a rocket hit in Kyiv. Kyiv mayor confirmed that an infrastructure object was hit in Kyiv. We see that often as well. Several districts of Kyiv are without electricity and water after the hits. We need air defense systems and combat planes,” he wrote.

Kyiv mayor says city faces “worst winter” since World War II

The Ukrainian capital of Kyiv is braced for the “worst winter since the Second World War,” according to the mayor of the city.

Vitali Klitschko told Germany’s Bild newspaper that his administration was working to avoid widespread power cuts, which could result in some areas having to be evacuated.

“We must also prepare for the worst scenario,” Klitschko said in an interview, adding, “That would be if there were widespread power cuts and the temperatures were even colder.”

“Then parts of the city would have to be evacuated, but we don’t want it to come to that!” he continued.

Ukrainian energy suppliers were forced to impose additional blackouts earlier this week after a recent onslaught of Russian strikes targeting critical infrastructure wiped out much of the country’s power supply.

More than 10 million Ukrainians had no power following the attacks from Moscow’s forces.

Russia has been accused of deliberately targeting Ukraine’s civilian power grid in an effort to leave the civilian population without electricity and heat — an act that would amount to a war crime. A senior US State Department official said Monday that a consistent pattern of Russian attacks on civilian elements in Ukraine was “deeply troubling.”

Russian strikes ‘hit critical infrastructure in Kyiv’ amid reports of several explosions

A series of explosions were heard in Kyiv a few minutes ago, as Russia has unleashed another wave of rockets across Ukraine.

Explosions heard in Mykolaiv and Dnipropetrovsk regions. Some impacts have been reported. Ukraine’s air defence took out some of them.

Mayor of Kyiv, Vitali Klitschko, confirmed a strike on critical infrastructure. Blasts followed by power outages.

Ukraine’s energy minister accuses Russia of ‘gas blackmail’

Ukrainian Energy Minister German Galushchenko accuses Moscow of using “gas blackmail” for geopolitical purposes.

On Tuesday, Gazprom threatened to cease sending gas to Moldova via Ukraine by November 28 after accusing Ukraine of withholding gas.

“Gas blackmail is an established Russian practice that the Kremlin continues to use for geopolitical purposes,” Galushchenko said in a written statement to the Reuters news agency.

“Having been defeated by the Armed Forces of Ukraine on the battlefield, Russia is using dirty gas lies to once again try to tarnish Ukraine’s international standing,” he added.

Galushchenko said Gazprom’s accusations against Ukraine were groundless and “may have another geopolitical purpose – to increase political pressure on Moldova.”

“After the full-scale invasion of Ukraine, Russia began to rapidly lose the European gas market. The Kremlin cannot accept this, which is why it is inventing new ways to regain its influence,” he added.

EU parliament declares Russia a ‘state sponsor of terrorism’

The European parliament has voted to designate Russia as a “state sponsor of terrorism”.

In a largely symbolic vote, MEPs argued that Russia’s military strikes on civilian targets such as energy infrastructure, hospitals, schools and shelters violate international law.

Andriy Yermak, the head of Ukraine’s presidential administration, stated he was grateful to the European parliament for this “crucial step which strengthens the international isolation of Russia and rightfully confirms its pariah status”.

Ukraine’s President, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, has welcomed the decision by the European parliament to designate Russia as a state sponsor of terrorism.

Russia must be “isolated at all levels” so that it will “end its long-standing policy of terrorism in Ukraine and across the globe”, he urged.

Russia has ‘likely’ exhausted stocks of Iran-made weapons: UK

Russia has likely launched several Iranian-manufactured uncrewed aerial vehicles (UAVs) against Ukraine since September, Britain’s Ministry of Defence (MoD) announced.

The ministry added that Russia “likely” has nearly exhausted its current stock of Iranian weapons and will seek to resupply.

“Russia has largely used these weapons against tactical military targets and the Ukrainian electricity grid. However, recently Russian commanders likely also wanted Iranian-sourced UAVs to prioritise medical facilities as targets of opportunity, and strike them with guided munitions if identified,” the update said.

IAEA chief meets with top Russian nuclear boss in Turkey

According to TASS news agency, Rafael Grossi met with the head of Russia’s Rosatom, Alexey Likhachev, in Istanbul.

The meeting focussed on talks of creating a security zone around the Zaporozhye nuclear power plant.

The talks were prompted by the recent massive shelling of the NPP by Kiev’s forces on November 20.

Newborn baby killed in strike on maternity ward

A two-day-old baby boy has reportedly been killed in an attack on a hospital in southern Ukraine. The newborn’s mother was rescued from the rubble but her baby did not survive.

The governor of Zaporizhzhia has claimed Russian forces fired on a maternity ward on Tuesday night.

“Grief fills our hearts – a baby who has just appeared in the world has been killed,” Oleksandr Starukh wrote on Telegram.

Two doctors were seriously injured after the ward in Vilnyansk was hit by S-300 missiles, according to reports.

President Volodymyr Zelensky stated “The enemy has once again decided to try to achieve with terror and murder what it wasn’t able to achieve for nine months and won’t be able to achieve.”

CIA scouting for disaffected Russians:Chief

The CIA’s espionage chief revealed in rare public remarks that it was scouting for Russian recruits left disaffected by Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.

David Marlowe, deputy director of operations, in his first in-person public appearance since taking the post last year, said: “Putin was at his best moment the day before he invaded. He squandered every single bit of that.”

He told George Mason University’s Hayden Center: “We’re looking around the world for Russians who are as disgusted with that as we are.

“Because we’re open for business,” he added.

UK sending helicopters to Ukraine for first time in the war

The UK Ministry of Defence has announced it will send helicopters to Ukraine for the first time since the war began.

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said it will be the first time piloted aircraft were sent to the war-torn nation since Russia’s invasion.

According to the BBC, three former Sea King helicopters will be provided. The first of which has already arrived in Ukraine.

Wallace, who made the announcement from Oslo where he is meeting allies to discuss ongoing military support for Kyiv, added that the UK will also send an additional 10,000 artillery rounds.

It comes after Prime Minister Rishi Sunak used a visit to the Ukrainian capital to set out a new £50m package of defence aid which included 125 anti-aircraft guns and equipment to counter Iranian-supplied drones.

Russia using cold as ‘weapon of mass destruction’: Zelensky

President Volodymyr Zelensky has blamed Russia for using winter temperatures as a “weapon of mass destruction” by striking Ukraine’s energy infrastructure.

“The Kremlin wants to transform the cold this winter into a weapon of mass destruction,” Ukraine’s president told a meeting of French mayors in a video message.

To get through the winter during the conflict, Zelensky urged the Association of French Mayors to send generators, support for de-mining operations and equipment for Ukraine’s emergency services and medics.

“I call on you to be very concrete with your help and to support our towns and communities against terrorism,” he added.

Pentagon asked to reconsider Ukraine’s request for Gray Eagle drones

A bipartisan group of 16 US senators has asked the Biden administration to carefully reconsider Ukraine’s request for lethal Gray Eagle drones to fight Russia.

The Joe Biden administration has so far rejected requests for the Gray Eagle drone, which has an operational ceiling of 29,000 feet and can fly for more than 24 hours, basing it on concerns that the drones could be shot down and may escalate the conflict.

As Russia increasingly turns to kamikaze drones and attacks civilian infrastructure, Ukraine has strongly appealed to the US to supply it with powerful drones that can help them gain an advantage in the conflict.

In their letter, the senators have given Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin until November 30 to explain why the Pentagon believed the drone was not appropriate for the fight in Ukraine.

Russia will reduce gas supply to Europe through Ukraine

Russian energy giant Gazprom announced it will reduce natural gas supply to Europe as of next Monday by pinching flow to a pipeline that runs through Ukraine.

On its official telegram account, the state-owned company said gas meant for Moldova is being held in Ukraine so it will reduce supply to the Sudzha pipeline to account for the difference.

“The volume of gas supplied by Gazprom to the GIS Sudzha for transit to Moldova through the territory of Ukraine exceeds the physical volume transmitted at the border of Ukraine with Moldova,” it added.

“While maintaining the transit imbalance through Ukraine for Moldovan consumers, on November 28, from 10:00, Gazprom will begin reducing gas supply to the Sudzha GIS for transit through Ukraine in the amount of the daily under delivery,” the company noted.

Europe has raced to replenish its stocks this year ahead of winter as Russia dramatically cut its flows of pipeline gas, including halting all shipments through the Nord Stream 1 pipeline in September.

But a bigger challenge could emerge in the spring when Europe tries to refill its stores with a much-reduced supply of Russian pipeline gas. Flows to Europe are just 20% of their pre-war levels, according to research firm Wood Mackenzie.

Zelensky appeals to Ukrainians to conserve energy

As Russian attacks continue to affect Ukraine’s power capacity, President Volodymyr Zelensky appealed to the country to conserve energy.

“The systematic damage to our energy system from strikes by the Russian terrorists is so considerable that all our people and businesses should be mindful and redistribute their consumption throughout the day,” Zelensky noted in a nightly video address.

Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal also reiterated the need to save electricity and said that because of the rising power consumption, emergency shutdowns may need to be carried out in addition to the planned ones taking place currently.

Ukraine has nearly recaptured Mykolaiv: Local governor

Ukraine has recaptured almost the entire southern Mykolaiv region, an isolated peninsula of the Black Sea where fighting is continuing, the local governor said.

Kyiv’s troops have been pushing out Russian forces from the southern Mykolaiv and Kherson regions and recently recaptured Kherson city.

Mykolaiv regional governor Vitaly Kim stated, “We are restoring full control over the region. We have three settlements left on the Kinburn Split to officially no longer be a region at war.”

His announcement comes after a defence ministry spokeswoman confirmed this week that Ukrainian forces were carrying out “a military operation” on the Kinburn Split.

“As soon as there is a result, we will report on it,” noted southern army command spokeswoman Natalia Gumeniuk.

World Bank gives $4.5 billion in new assistance to Ukraine

The World Bank will give $4.5 billion in additional aid to Ukraine to help it “sustain essential services and core government functions at the national and regional levels” while fending off Russian forces, according to a statement.

The money, provided by the US, will help “pay wages for hospital workers, government and school employees, pensions for the elderly, salaries for public servants, and social programs for the vulnerable,” the World Bank said in a statement.

“Amid the ongoing war and the escalating destruction of infrastructure, our commitment to deliver urgent assistance to the people of Ukraine is strong as ever,” stated World Bank Group President David Malpass.

“This generous additional grant from the United States comes at a critical time as the country faces severe energy supply disruption and colder weather. The World Bank Group will continue to mobilize all available resources to help the Government of Ukraine meet vital needs for its citizens,” Malpass added.

The US Agency for International Development said in a statement Tuesday that “robust safeguards put in place by the World Bank, coupled with USAID-funded, expert third-party monitoring support embedded within the Ukrainian government, ensure accountability and transparency in the use of these funds.”

It added Kyiv “will receive the funding in two tranches before the end of 2022.”

Denys Shmyhal, prime minister of Ukraine, also announced the aid money on his Twitter account Tuesday. He noted the funds will help Ukraine “meet urgent needs during the winter.”

Russian strikes caused “colossal” damage to Ukraine’s power generating facilities: Head of grid operator

An attack last week by Russian forces on Ukraine’s power grid caused “colossal” damage, leaving no thermal or hydroelectric power plant in Ukraine intact, according to the head of the government-owned electricity transmission system operator.

“This was the biggest attack, the biggest in history. Over 100 heavy missiles were launched. Their targets were Ukrainian energy system facilities, mainly, Ukrenergo substations and Ukrainian thermal power stations producing energy for Ukrainian consumers,” Volodymyr Kudrytskyi, CEO of Ukrenergo, said Tuesday.

“To understand the scale of these attacks, what we’re dealing with, almost all thermal and power generation from large power plants suffered damage from missile strikes. There are almost no Ukrenergo hub substations that are intact. Practically every key substation has been hit at least once, and some three, five or eight times,” he added.

Ukraine’s grid is currently “stabilized” with scheduled blackouts due to the war’s massive damage to power stations, leaving them unable to provide enough electricity for the country. Kherson, located in southern Ukraine, remains the most “problematic” region for power, though local workers are concentrated on demining the grid in the wake of retreating Russian troops.

In the absence of new massive attacks the situation should be stable with four-hour outages a day planned, he said.

“As we see it, it is the role of the energy sector is to make the energy system work in a way that enables Ukrainians to remain in their country and spend the winter here. It is our everyday battle is to make the energy system meet the electricity needs of Ukrainians,” he added.

Kherson authorities have urged residents to evacuate to areas of the country with more stable power supplies as the region is still without electricity.

EU announces $2.5 billion in funding for Ukraine

The European Union will provide another 2.5 billion euros (around $2.57 billion) in financial aid for Ukraine, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announced on Tuesday.

The EU Commission is planning to aid Ukraine with a support package of 18 billion euros (around $18.5 billion) in 2023, with funding disbursed regularly, for urgent repairs and recovery, she said in a tweet.

“We will keep on supporting [Ukraine] for as long as it takes,” she wrote.

Ukraine’s Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal thanked the EU for the assistance, describing the move as “another step of solidarity.”

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