Sunday, June 23, 2024

Live Update: Russia’s “Special Operation” in Ukraine; Day 337

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:

Zelensky no match for Putin: Kremlin spokesman

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is no match for his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said Thursday.

Peskov’s comments came in response to a question about Zelensky saying that he is “not interested” in meeting the Russian president for peace talks.

“We know with what promises Zelensky was elected president, it is absolutely not difficult to remember them ourselves and remind those voters who voted for him in Ukraine,” Peskov told journalists during a daily press call.

“He did not solve the problem of Donbass, he did not fulfil the Minsk agreements, moreover, as it turned out, he was not going to fulfil them, he was preparing for war,” he added.

“Therefore, let’s put it this way, he himself has long ceased to be a possible opponent for Putin,” Peskov continued.

Ukraine downed 47 Russian missiles fired in latest attacks: Top general

Ukrainian air defences shot down 47 of the 55 missiles Russian forces fired at Ukraine in Moscow’s latest wave of attacks, the country’s top general has noted.

Moscow used the Kh-47 Kinzhal hypersonic missile, among other models, in the strikes, General Valery Zaluzhny said in a post on Telegram. Twenty of the incoming missiles were shot down around the capital, Kyiv, he added.

“The goal of the Russians remains unchanged: psychological pressure on Ukrainians and the destruction of critical infrastructure,” Zaluzhny continued, stating, “But we cannot be broken!”

Zelensky says he is “not interested” in meeting Putin for peace talks

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky stated he is “not interested” in meeting his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin for peace talks in an interview with Sky News that aired Thursday.

Asked whether the war in Ukraine could be resolved through peace talks with Putin, Zelensky said: “It is not interesting for me. Not interesting to meet, not interesting to speak.”

“After a full-scale invasion, for me (Putin) is nobody,” Zelensky noted when asked if it was too late for peace talks. ”

Zelensky told Sky News there were many more casualties on Russia’s side than Ukraine’s, adding that “in the east, they are losing a large number of people, a huge number, but they don’t care. They are not counting people, that’s a fact. We are counting their people.”

During the interview, which was taped on Wednesday, Zelensky learned Germany had agreed to send German-made Leopard 2 battle tanks to Ukraine after weeks of diplomatic pressure on Berlin to do so.

Zelensky added he was “very pleased,” but he also said the timeframe in which they were delivered to the war-torn nation was “critical.”

Leopard 2 battle tanks to arrive in Ukraine by end of March: German DM

Germany is planning to deliver Leopard 2 battle tanks to Ukraine by the end of March, German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius announced Thursday.

”We will deliver our Leopards – at the latest by the end of march,” Pistorius told reporters at a news conference during a visit to a German armed forces training camp in Altengrabow.

“This is not too late,” Pistorius added.

On Wednesday, Germany confirmed it will deliver 14 Leopard 2 tanks from its own Bundeswehr (German Armed Forces) stock to Kyiv, following weeks of diplomatic pressure on Berlin.

When asked by a reporter on Thursday why it had taken Germany so long to announce the deliveries of the tanks, Pistorius justified Germany taking its time.

”We did not hesitate – we negotiated with our allies – we talked to our partners and friends about what is the best thing to do now and that takes time,” he stated.

”It is not a decision just to order something on the website – or to send something to anybody – it is a matter of war, it is a matter of trust, and it is a matter of alliance,” Pistorius added.

Moscow says tank promises show ‘direct’ Western involvement in Ukraine

The Kremlin says promises from Ukraine’s Western allies to deliver tanks to Kyiv are evidence of their direct and growing involvement in the war.

“There are constant statements from European capitals and Washington that the sending of various weapons systems to Ukraine, including tanks, in no way signifies the involvement of these countries or the alliance in hostilities in Ukraine,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov stated.

“We categorically disagree with this, and in Moscow, everything that the alliance and the capitals I mentioned are doing is seen as direct involvement in the conflict. We see that this is growing,” he added.

US, NATO parties to conflict in Ukraine: Russian official

The secretary of Russia’s Security Council has said the United States and NATO are parties to the conflict in Ukraine, according to a report by Russia’s state-owned TASS news agency.

TASS quoted Nikolai Patrushev, one of President Vladimir Putin’s closest allies, as saying that what was happening in Ukraine today was the result of a years-long “hybrid war” being waged by the West against Russia.

He accused both the US and NATO, which is led by Washington, of seeking to drag out the conflict.

One killed, two injured in Russian missile attack on Kyiv: Mayor

The mayor of Ukraine’s capital Kyiv announced one person has been killed and two more have been wounded after Russia launched more than a dozen missiles in its latest large-scale aerial offensive.

“As a result of a rocket hitting a non-residential building in the Golosiivsky district, there is information that one person is dead and two wounded,” Kyiv’s mayor Vitali Klitschko said in a statement on social media.

The Kyiv city military administration confirmed the death was due to parts of a missile falling.

“The casualties have been hospitalised by medics,” Klitschko added.

Ukraine scrambles air defenses after Russians fire over 30 missiles: Air force

Ukrainian air defenses are working to intercept Russian attacks after Moscow’s forces fired more than 30 missiles at Ukraine on Thursday morning, the Ukrainian Air Force said.

Air force spokesperson Yurii Ihnat stated on Ukrainian television that around six Russian Tu-95 aircraft had “taken off from [Russia’s] Murmansk region and have launched missiles.”

“We expect more than 30 missiles, which have already begun to appear in various regions,” Ihnat continued, adding that Ukrainian air defenses were working to intercept the attacks.

The head of the Kyiv city military administration, Serhii Popko, noted that more than 15 cruise missiles had been launched “in the direction of Kyiv” and all had been shot down.

An air raid alert is in place across the country.

Separately, Ukraine’s Air Force Command has reported its air defenses shot down 24 attack drones sent by Russia overnight

The attacks come after the United States and Germany announced Wednesday they would send battle tanks to Ukraine.

Emergency power outages imposed in several parts of Ukraine due to threat of Russian missile attacks

Ukraine’s largest private energy company on Thursday implemented emergency power outages in several regions including Kyiv “due to the threat of a missile attack,” the firm said.

In a Telegram post, the DTEK group announced the outages in the capital, Odesa and Dnipropetrovsk were “a necessary preventive step to avoid significant damage to the energy infrastructure if enemy missiles reach their target.”

Air raid sirens have been ringing across all parts of Ukraine, including Kyiv, on Thursday morning.

Zelensky says tank announcements from Western allies for Ukraine proves “freedom is only getting stronger”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said that the decision by the United States and Germany to send main battle tanks to his country proved that “freedom is only getting stronger.”

““The key thing now is speed and volume,” he stated, adding, “The speed of training of our military, the speed of supplying tanks to Ukraine. The volume of tank support.””

He thanked ”Mr. President Joe Biden, I thank the Congress, I thank every American family” as well as “Mr. Chancellor, all German politicians and public figures.”

He said that it was critical to get continued progress in the provision of weapons for Ukraine.

“Today I spoke with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg,” he noted, adding, “We have to unlock the supply of long-range missiles to Ukraine, it is important for us to expand our cooperation in artillery, we have to achieve the supply of aircraft to Ukraine. And this is a dream. And this is a task. An important task for all of us.”

Russia ‘intensifying’ Donetsk battle, ‘superior’ in numbers: Ukraine

Ukraine has said that Russia was upping the pressure in the fight for Bakhmut in the eastern Donetsk region, and that Kyiv’s forces were outnumbered and outgunned.

“The enemy is intensifying pressure in the Bakhmut and Vuhledar sectors,” Ukraine’s Deputy Defence Minister Hanna Malyar said in a statement.

Now in Donbas, against their superior number of soldiers and weapons, we have the advantage of professional military command and the courage of soldiers,” Malyar added.

Ukraine is modernizing its “old Soviet-fashioned” weapons procurement system: DM

Ukraine’s Defense Ministry is reforming its “old Soviet-fashioned corruption” weapons procurement system to a modern, NATO-style system, the country’s defense minister told CNN on Wednesday, after a slew of officials were dismissed from Kyiv’s government amid a corruption scandal.

Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov addressed the issue in an interview with CNN, saying he asked Ukraine’s relevant parliamentary committees on Tuesday to help write new legislation to modernize the government’s system of procuring weapons and army supplies.

It comes after the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine said it was investigating allegations that the defense ministry was buying military provisions, including food for the troops, at inflated prices.

“We have to move forward” in tackling corruption, he added, because Ukraine will continue to need Western support after the war.

“They will support us if we really show them that we stop [the] Soviet-era corruption systems in our country [and] we become a new, modernized, civilized, European country,” Reznikov told CNN.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky fired several of senior Ukrainian officials earlier this week due to the corruption scandal in the biggest shakeup of his government since Russia’s invasion began. Zelensky also announced he was banning government officials from traveling abroad on anything but official business.

German Leopard tanks will get on ground in Ukraine faster than US Abrams: White House

The German Leopard tanks will be on the ground in Ukraine faster than the US Abram tanks, said John Kirby, the White House’s strategic communications coordinator for national security.

Kirby would not specify a timeline as to when the US would be able to deliver the Abram tanks to Ukraine, and told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer Wednesday it would take “many months.”

“These Leopard tanks are very sophisticated, too. They’re very good tanks and there’s a lot of them on the European continent. We’re grateful that the Germans are going to contribute immediately 14 of them, but that they’re going to work with allies and partners to flesh out, you know, a full two-tank battalion, so that’s about 60 tanks, Wolf. And they’re very, very good tanks and you’re right, they will be able to get on the ground in Ukraine faster than the Abrams,” Kirby stated.

He added: “We do believe that they can have a significant impact as the fighting begins to get more violent coming in the spring and summer months.”

US President Joe Biden announced the US plans to send 31 Abrams tanks to Ukraine after Germany confirmed it will deliver 14 Leopard 2 tanks from its own stock to the country, following weeks of diplomatic pressure on Berlin.

Ukraine’s “wish list” includes Western fighter jets: DM

Ukraine’s “wish list” for Western-supplied weapons includes fighter jets, Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov told CNN on Wednesday.

“I sent a wish list card to Santa Claus last year, and fighter jets also [were] including in this wish list,” Reznikov said.

But he stated that his government’s first priority was air defense systems so it could prevent Russia from carrying out air and missile strikes.

“We have to close our sky, to defend our sky,” Reznikov continued, adding, “That’s priority number one. After that, we need to get more armed vehicles, tanks, artillery systems, UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles), et cetera, et cetera. We have people, but we need weaponry.”

Quoting Winston Churchill, he noted, “Give us the tools, we will finish the job.”

Ukraine will use Western main battle tanks as an “iron fist” to break through Russian lines and liberate occupied territory, Ukraine’s defense minister told CNN.

“We will use them as a kind of metal fist, or iron fist, to break through the defense line of our enemy,” Reznikov said.

Ukraine must “continue our counteroffensive campaign in different directions for the liberation [of] our temporarily occupied territories,” he added.

Berlin and its allies will send about 80 Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine: German governing party

Ukraine’s Western allies will send the country a total of around 80 Leopard 2 main battle tanks, Germany’s main governing party announced on Wednesday.

“Two battalions (a total of around 80 main battle tanks) of the Leopard-2-A6 type are to be delivered quickly,” the Social Democratic Party (SPD) said on Twitter.

“14 of these come from Bundeswehr stocks. In addition, the German government gives other countries permission to supply Ukraine with their own Leopard tanks,” it added.

In addition to the Leopard 2 tanks, the United States on Wednesday pledged to send 31 M1 Abrams tanks, and the United Kingdom has pledged 14 Challenger 2 tanks.

War in Ukraine has disrupted the education of more than 5 million children: UNICEF

The ongoing war in Ukraine has disrupted education for more than 5 million children, UNICEF said in a statement.

According to UNICEF, the impact of the 11 months of war only compounds the two years of learning lost to the Covid-19 pandemic, and more than eight years of war for children in eastern Ukraine.

“There is no pause button. It is not an option to simply postpone children’s education and come back to it once other priorities have been addressed, without risking the future of an entire generation,” Afshan Khan, UNICEF Regional Director for Europe and Central Asia stated.

Explosive weapons being used, especially in populated areas have left thousands of schools, pre-schools or other education facilities across the country damaged or destroyed, and have led to many parents and caretakers reluctant to send children to school amid safety concerns, according to UNICEF.

Attacks on electricity and other energy infrastructure have caused widespread blackouts, impacting the more than 1.9 million children utilizing online learning opportunities and the 1.3 million children enrolled in a combination of in-person and online learning.

Outside of the country, an estimated two out of three Ukrainian refugee children are not currently enrolled in the host country’s education system.

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