Thursday, June 20, 2024

Live Update: Russia’s “Special Operation” in Ukraine; Day 347

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:

Ukrainian ministry of defence may be replaced by military intelligence chief: Local media

Citing government and military sources, Ukrainian media outlet Ukrainska Pravda reports that the ministry of defence Oleksyy Reznikov “may leave his post” next week to be likely replaced by the head of Ukraine’s military intelligence Kyrylo Budanov.

“As an option, it is considered that Reznikov will become the new Minister of Justice,” read the report, adding that there “was no doubt” that the minister should remain part of the government.

Ukrainian media The Kyiv Independent also cited a government source as saying that Reznikov was likely to be replaced in the very near future.

Speaking to the Ukrainska Pravda, Reznikov stated he did not held any talks about his resignation.

Power partially restored in Odesa

Power has been partially restored in the southern city of Oseda after a fire at a damaged electrical substation had left nearly 500,000 people without electricity.

The government said it will appeal to Turkey to restore power to those still effected.

The structure was damaged by repeated Russian strikes.

Bakhmut is ‘increasingly isolated’: British intelligence

The British ministry of defence says Russian forces have made, over the last week, “small advances in its attempts to encircle” Bakhmut which is now “increasingly isolated”.

In its daily bulletin, the ministry also announced that two main roads into the city “are likely now both threatened by direct fire” due to Russian soldiers advancing.

“Earlier in the week, Wagner paramilitary forces highly likely seized a subordinate route which links Bakhmut to the town of Siversk,” it continued.

“While multiple alternative cross-country supply routes remain available to Ukrainian forces, Bakhmut is increasingly isolated,” it added.

Putin made no threats against Scholz: German Chancellor

Russian President Vladimir Putin in his telephone conversations with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz “has not made any threats against me or Germany,” Scholz said in an interview with newspaper Bild am Sonntag.

The last phone call between the two leaders was at the start of December.

Scholz also stated he made it clear to Putin that they had very different views of the war in Ukraine.

“I make it very clear to Putin that Russia has sole responsibility for the war,” Scholz continued, adding, “Russia has invaded its neighbour for no reason, in order to take parts of Ukraine or the whole country under its control.”

Because it was Germany’s view that Russia’s actions violated Europe’s peace framework, it was providing Ukraine with financial, humanitarian and military help, he said.

There is an agreement with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy that weapons supplied by the West must only be used on Ukrainian and not on Russian territory, he added.

“We have a consensus on that,” he noted.

Russia warns of using ‘weapons of any kind’ in case of Ukraine’s attack on Crimea

Russia has warned that a Ukraine’s attack on Crimea will trigger Moscow to retaliate and use ‘weapons of any kind’ to defend itself.

Deputy Chairman of the Russian Security Council Dmitry Medvedev wrote on his Twitter page that “Crimea is Russia. The attack on Crimea is an attack on Russia and an escalation of the conflict.”

“International law respects the will of the people. Crimea is Russia. Attacking Crimea means attacking Russia and escalating the conflict. The Ukrainian gang of drug addicts must understand that such attacks will be met with inevitable retaliation using weapons of any kind,” he said.

Zelensky: Since war started, we secured release of over 1,700 Ukrainians

Since the war started last February, Ukraine has secured the release of 1,762 men and women from Russian captivity, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has stated in his nightly video address.

Ukraine and Russia traded almost 200 prisoners of war in a swap announced separately by both sides on Saturday, with the bodies of two British volunteers also being sent back to Ukraine.

18.1 million border crossings out of Ukraine since Russia invaded: UN

More than 18.1 million border crossings have taken place out of Ukraine since Russia’s invasion began in February 2022, according to the United Nations.

The number reflects cross-border movements out of the country and not individuals.

Just under 10 million people have crossed back into Ukrainian territory since 24 February last year.

Zelensky says situation in Ukraine’s east ‘getting tougher’

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky has warned that the situation on the eastern front line was getting tougher, with Russia throwing more and more troops into battle to break down Ukrainian defences.

Zelensky’s comments came as shelling continued in the eastern Donetsk region while an accident at a power plant in the southern region of Odesa left nearly 500,000 homes without electricity.

“I’ve often had to say the situation at the front is tough, and is getting tougher, and it’s that time again. … The invader is putting more and more of his forces into breaking down our defences,” the president stated in his nightly video address.

“It is very difficult now in Bakhmut, Vuhledar, Lyman and other directions,” he continued.

Russian troops, who have been pushing for a significant battlefield victory after months of setbacks, have been trying to close their grip on the town of Bakhmut and are also trying to capture the nearby coal-mining city of Vuhledar, also in the eastern region of Donetsk.

Earlier in the day, Deputy Defence Minister Hanna Malyar wrote on Telegram that Russian efforts to break the defences in Bakhmut and Lyman had failed.

Lyman, which lies just to the north of Bakhmut, was liberated by Ukrainian forces in October.

Saudi Arabia warns sanctions against Russia could lead to energy shortages

Saudi energy minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman has warned that Western sanctions against Russia could result in a shortage of energy supplies in the future.

Asked how trade measures would affect the energy market, Prince Abdulaziz told an industry conference in Riyadh, “All of those so-called sanctions, embargoes, lack of investments, they will convolute into one thing and one thing only, a lack of energy supplies of all kinds when they are most needed.”

The prince also added Saudi Arabia was working to send liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) to Ukraine.

The European Union has imposed a series of sanctions against Russia, reducing Russian energy exports, and other Western powers have also imposed measures as they seek to further limit Moscow’s ability to fund its war in Ukraine.

Russia, Ukraine swap prisoners

Ukraine has released dozens of Russian soldiers as part of a negotiation brokered by the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Russia’s defence ministry has said, the same day 116 Ukrainian servicemen were also freed as fighting rages in the eastern city of Bakhmut.

“A complicated negotiations process resulted in 63 Russian servicemen returned from the Ukrainian territory”, the ministry said on Saturday, as quoted by TASS news agency.

It added that people of a “sensitive category” were also included in the deal, thanks to the mediation of the Persian Gulf country.

The ministry did not provide details on who falls within the “sensitive” group, but experts say that in past exchanges it referred to a wide range of people, including spies and civilians holding sensitive information.

All of the released soldiers are currently in Russia, the ministry announced, adding that they were being given medical aid and access to contact their families.

500,000 households in Ukraine’s Odesa without power

An accident at a electrical substation, already damaged by Russian attacks, has left half a million households without power in the southern Ukrainian city of Odesa, authorities said.

“The situation is complex, the scale of the accident is significant,” Prime Minister Denys Shmygal stated on messaging app Telegram. He added that the substation had been “repeatedly” damaged as a result of Russian attacks.

Odesa region Governor Maksym Marchenko described the accident as “serious,” adding that the energy minister and the head of state-run electricity grid operator Ukrenergo had been sent to the city.

“A number of generators will be delivered to the region of Odesa within the next 24 hours,” he continued, adding, “We expect the first generators to arrive tonight.”

UK PM says he will focus on providing Ukraine with military equipment

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and President Volodymyr Zelensky agreed on the importance of the international community speeding up assistance for Ukraine.

“The Prime Minister said he was focused on ensuring the UK’s defensive military equipment reached the front line as quickly as possible,” Sunak’s office said in a statement, after a phone call between the two leaders.

“Both leaders agreed that it was vital that international partners accelerated their assistance to Ukraine to help seize the opportunity to push Russian forces back,” the UK statement added.

Germany says it has collected evidence of war crimes in Ukraine

Germany has collected evidence of war crimes in Ukraine, the country’s prosecutor general has said in a newspaper interview.

The official added that he saw a need for a judicial process at international level. He stated the amount of evidence was in the “three-digit” range.

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