Monday, May 20, 2024

Live Update: Russia’s “Special Operation” in Ukraine; Day 392

Russia, wary of NATO’s eastward expansion, began a military campaign in Ukraine in February 2022 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 pays surprise visit to troops on front lines in Donetsk region

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has paid a surprise visit to troops on the front lines in the Donetsk region, and handed out awards to the defenders of Bakhmut, according to video released by the President’s office.

Standing in a large warehouse at an undisclosed location, Zelensky said: “I am honored to be here today, in the east of our country, in Donbas, and to award our heroes — to thank you, to shake hands.

“Thank you for protecting the state, sovereignty, the east of Ukraine,” he added.

Kremlin says West’s “hostile” reaction to Xi’s visit is not surprising

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said he is not surprised by what he called a “hostile” reaction from Western nations to the visit between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese leader Xi Jinping this week.

“As for the reaction of the countries of the collective West, the fact that on almost all issues this reaction is of an unfriendly, deeply hostile nature is no secret to anyone. The coverage of this important visit is no exception,” Peskov stated.

“Of course, the most important thing is not the reaction of the West, but it’s the results of the negotiations that took place. The main thing is the results of the state visit itself,” he added.

Xi and Putin didn’t discuss Ukraine’s proposed peace plan during their meetings: Kremlin

Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, did not discuss a Kyiv-proposed peace plan to end the war in Ukraine during their visit this week, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Wednesday.

Peskov stated that Kyiv’s proposal was a matter of Sino-Ukraine relations.

The 10-point peace plan was first presented by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in a video at a meeting of the Group of 20 nations in November.

The steps include a path to nuclear safety, food security, a special tribunal for alleged Russian war crimes, and a final peace treaty between Russia and Ukraine.

Xi spent three days Moscow this week. His visit ended with Beijing and Moscow concluding more than dozen agreements bolstering cooperation in areas from trade and technology to state propaganda, according to a Kremlin list. The leaders’ central statement focused on how the two countries would “deepen” their relationship.

However, the two sides failed to move the needle on bringing a resolution to the war.

Fourth person killed in overnight drone strikes in Kyiv

A fourth victim of a nighttime drone attack in the region of Kyiv has been found in the rubble of a dormitory in the town of Rzhyshchiv, police said.

The deceased has been identified as a 40-year old man.

Andrii Niebytov, the Kyiv region’s police chief, stated earlier that three people had been killed and seven others injured in the attack. More than 200 people were evacuated from the building and more than 20 were hospitalized. At the time when Niebytov spoke, five were missing, he added.

A total of 21 drones were launched against Ukraine from the north shortly before midnight local time on Tuesday, 16 of which were shot down, according to the Ukrainian air force.

IMF agree on $15.6 billion loan package to Ukraine

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has agreed to supply Ukraine with a $15.6 billion loan to help stave off financial woes due to the war with Russia, it said in a statement Tuesday.

The package — which is subject to approval by the IMF’s executive board — aims to support Ukraine’s recovery as the invasion perpetrated by Russia “continues to have a devastating impact on the economy,” said Gavin Gray, the IMF’s mission chief for Ukraine.

“The overarching goals of the authorities’ program are to sustain economic and financial stability in circumstances of exceptionally high uncertainty, restore debt sustainability, and support Ukraine’s recovery on the path toward EU accession in the post-war period,” Gray added.

The funds are being delivered as part of a four-year agreement reached between the IMF and Ukraine.

Russian drone attacks kill 3 in Kyiv region

Three people were killed in the Kyiv region overnight following a wave of Russian attacks with drones, according to Ukrainian authorities.

Andrii Niebytov, the Kyiv region’s police chief, said seven others were injured when a drone struck a dormitory building in the town of Rzhyshchiv.

Police and emergency services evacuated more than 200 people and more than 20 were taken to the hospital — but five people remain missing, Niebytov stated, adding four people may be trapped under the rubble, Ukraine’s State Emergency.

A total of 21 drones were launched against Ukraine from the north shortly before midnight local time on Tuesday, 16 of which were shot down, according to the Ukrainian air force.

Serhiy Popko, head of the Kyiv military administration, said eight drones were shot down near the capital, where an air alert was in force for more than four hours.

In the Zhytomyr region to the west of Kyiv, three drones were shot down by Ukrainian air defenses, according to the local military administration.

Russia-installed official says drone attack “thwarted” in Crimea

A drone attack was “thwarted” in the Crimean port city of Sevastopol early on Wednesday, according to a local Russia-backed official.

“As of now, a total of three objects have been destroyed. They were trying to penetrate into the bay, and our navy men fired small arms on them. They also engaged the air defense system with one aerial drone,” Sevastopol Gov. Mikhail Razvozhaev said in a post on Telegram.

“Our warships were not damaged. In the wake of the explosion caused by the destruction of the maritime drones, windows were blown out in buildings at Lenina 2 and a house on Moscow [street]. There were no casualties,” he added.

Sevastopol is the largest city in the annexed Crimean peninsula and home to Russia’s Black Sea fleet. Some of Russia’s most important warships have been docked there, including surface ships equipped with cruise missiles.

The US has previously accused Russia of using cruise missiles fired from ships in the Black Sea to hit civilian targets in Ukraine.

The report Tuesday comes after Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense said late Monday that a strike destroyed Russian “Kalibr” cruise missiles that were being transported by train in the Crimean town of Dzhankoi.

Ukrainian authorities did not directly claim responsibility for that strike but said it serves to further “demilitarize Russia and prepare the Crimean peninsula for de-occupation.”

Chinese leader Xi Jinping departs Russia

Chinese leader Xi Jinping has departed Russia and is heading back to Beijing, according to Chinese state media outlet CCTV.

It brings an end to a three-day state visit in which the Chinese leader and Russian President Vladimir Putin pledged to deepen ties in a show of unity that has heightened concerns Beijing will provide cover for the Kremlin’s war in Ukraine.

Japan pledges $30 million to Ukraine for non-lethal equipment

Japan will provide $30 million to help Ukraine acquire non-lethal equipment, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said, according to public broadcaster NHK.

Kishida made the announcement at a joint news conference with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky during his surprise visit to Kyiv.

“Japan will continue providing seamless support,” to Ukraine “until peace returns to its beautiful land,” Kishida was quoted as saying by NHK.

Kishida’s unexpected trip to Ukraine Tuesday was announced as Chinese leader Xi Jinping held talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow.

His visit was the first from a Japanese prime minister to a country or region with ongoing fighting since World War II, according to NHK. It was also the first visit to Ukraine by an Asian member of the G7 grouping and the first by a United States ally in the region.

The dual visits by Kishida and Xi underscore deep divisions in northeast Asia toward the war in Ukraine, with Japan pledging substantial aid for Kyiv, while China remains a lone voice supporting an increasingly isolated Putin — now a global pariah and suspected war criminal.

Kyiv has proposed that China join Ukrainian peace formula: Zelensky

Kyiv suggested to China that Beijing join a Ukrainian peace formula to end Russia’s war, but that it was still waiting for an answer, according to President Volodymyr Zelensky.

The Ukrainian president made the remark during a joint briefing in Kyiv with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida.

Beijing has proposed a 12-point peace proposal, but Kyiv insists on a full Russian troop withdrawal and has been promoting its own plan in recent months.

White House official says Russia-China relationship is built on mutual interest to challenge US

The deepening relationship between China and Russia was due in large part to their mutual interest in challenging the US’ global influence, John Kirby, National Security Council spokesperson, told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour Tuesday.

“Where they intersect is pushing back on the United States and our influence around the world,” Kirby said.

“Where they intersect is pushing back on this thing we call the rules-based international order. Which I know sounds kind of like a wonky term, but it’s basically the rule of law and the foundational principles of the UN charter by which nations around the world are supposed to abide. And they’re pushing back against that,” he added.

Kirby’s remarks come as Chinese leader Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin forge closer ties in Moscow in a show of unity that has heightened Western concerns that Beijing will provide cover for Russia’s war in Ukraine.

“They’d like to change the rules of the game,” Kirby stated.

“And in each other they see a useful foil. They see a useful friend. But that’s what they’re doing. They’re basically trying to use each other here to challenge US leadership and the West — particularly in Europe — but elsewhere around the world,” he continued.

In a joint statement released by China’s Foreign Ministry on Wednesday, Xi and Putin said their partnership is in the “fundamental interests” of both countries, adding that “Russia needs a prosperous and stable China, and China needs a strong and successful Russia.”

US Republican lawmakers urge Biden to send cluster bombs to Ukraine

Four Republican members of the United States Congress have urged US President Joe Biden to send cluster munitions to Ukraine, alleging in a letter to the White House that the administration fears doing so would be seen as an escalation by Russia.

Ukraine is seeking the MK 20, an air-delivered cluster bomb, to release its individual explosives from drones, and 155mm artillery cluster shells. Kyiv had urged members of Congress to press the White House to approve sending the weapons.

The letter criticised Biden for “reluctance to provide Ukraine the right type and amount of long-range fires and maneuver capability to create” a breakthrough against Russian forces.

The letter was signed by Jim Risch, the top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee; Roger Wicker, the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee; Mike McCaul, the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee; and Mike Rogers, the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee.

NATO chief urges member states to boost defence spending

NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg has urged member countries to speed up increases in defence spending as Russia’s war in Ukraine continues and as new figures showed fewer than a quarter of them meeting the alliance’s target.

Stoltenberg stated Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last year showed the world had become more dangerous, and NATO allies had to respond by setting and meeting more ambitious military spending goals.

Only seven of the alliance’s 30 countries met the current goal of spending 2 percent of GDP on defence in 2022, according to estimates in the NATO secretary-general’s annual report, released on Tuesday.

Chinese and Russian leaders express “serious concerns” about joint nuclear submarine plan and NATO

Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin expressed “serious concerns” about the security pact AUKUS grouping — comprised of Australia, the United Kingdom, the United States — and NATO, according to a joint statement released by China’s Foreign Ministry Wednesday.

China and Russia also voiced concern about the nuclear-powered submarine cooperation plan among the AUKUS and urged members to “strictly fulfill their obligations not to proliferate weapons of mass destruction.”

The leaders raised serious concerns about NATO’s “continuous strengthening of military-security ties with Asia-Pacific countries” and said they “oppose external military forces undermining regional peace and stability.”

In the statement, the countries emphasized their partnership is in the “fundamental interests” of both countries, adding that “Russia needs a prosperous and stable China, and China needs a strong and successful Russia.”

The leaders also stated they will develop a closer energy partnership and continue to strengthen their cooperation in the financial sector.

In regard to Ukraine, both sides pointed out in the statement that to resolve the crisis, “the legitimate security concerns of all countries must be respected, and camp confrontation and fueling the fire must be prevented.”

ICC prosecutor says Russia treats children like “spoils of war”

International Criminal Court Prosecutor Karim Khan said he believes Russia is treating children like “spoils of war.”

Last week, the ICC announced arrest warrants against Russian President Vladimir Putin and Russian children’s rights commissioner Maria Lvova-Belova for their roles in allegedly illegally deporting Ukrainian children to Russia.

The Rome Statute of the Geneva Conventions makes it clear “you can’t deport civilians to a foreign country,” Khan stated.

Moscow has rejected the warrants, with a spokesperson for the ministry of foreign affairs previously saying that “Russia is not a member of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court and bears no obligations under it.”

“You must look after them,” Khan said of Ukrainian children.

“If they are not safe, you move them to a safe part of Ukraine. If that’s not possible, a neutral third country. And it seems to be not just deportation to Russian Federation, they’re met by strangers who now have suddenly become adopted parents. And the children are not property, they’re not the spoils of war,” he added.

The prosecutor noted Russia does not seem to be denying the allegations against it but rather wearing it “like a badge of honor.”

“Children are not the property of a country to be dispatched based on politics or some ideological motives. It needs to be regulated by law, and that law needs to be enforced,” Khan continued.

He added the ICC has since reached out to Russia, but it has not heard back.

US will send older Abrams tanks to Ukraine which should speed up delivery: Pentagon spokesperson

The US has changed course and is now providing Ukraine with 31 M1-A1 Abrams tanks instead of the newer M1-A2 variants previously planned, Pentagon spokesperson Brig. Gen. Patrick Ryder said Tuesday.

“[A]fter further study and analysis on how best to do this, DoD in close coordination with Ukraine has made the decision to provide the M1-A1 variant of the Abrams tank, which will enable us to submit significantly expedite delivery timelines and deliver this important capability to Ukraine by the fall of this year,” Ryder stated at a press conference.

He added that the US would also be providing Ukraine with “advances armor and weapons systems” that are “very similar capability” to the M1-A2, including a .50-caliber heavy machine gun and 120 mm cannon.

NATO chief says there are “signs” that Russia requested lethal aid from China

NATO has “seen some signs” that Russia has likely requested lethal aid from China to bolster Moscow’s war in Ukraine, the alliance’s secretary general said Tuesday.

“We haven’t seen any proof that China is delivering lethal weapons to Russia, but we have seen some signs that this has been a request from Russia, and that this is an issue that is considered in Beijing by the Chinese authorities,” Jens Stoltenberg told reporters at a news conference in Brussels.

“China should not provide lethal aid to Russia. That would be to support an illegal war,” Stoltenberg warned.

The NATO chief’s comments come as China’s Xi Jinping meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow. Since Russia began its invasion of Ukraine, Beijing has claimed impartiality in the conflict, but echoed Kremlin rhetoric blaming NATO for the conflict, refused to condemn the invasion, and backed Moscow financially by significantly increasing purchases of Russian fuel.

Stoltenberg said Xi’s three-day state visit to Moscow signals the closer ties developing between China and Russia in recent years.

“We see how China and Russia are coming closer and closer in the military domain — joint exercises, joint patrols, naval and air patrols — in the economic domain and also in the political and diplomatic domain,” Stoltenberg continued, adding, “So the meeting in Moscow is part of that pattern where China and Russia are working more and more closely and building a stronger and stronger partnership.”

Xi and Putin call for end to actions that “increase tensions” and prolong war in Ukraine

Chinese leader Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin are calling for an end to actions that “increase tensions” and prolong the war in Ukraine, according to a readout released by Chinese state media People’s Daily of the two leaders meeting in Moscow Tuesday.

According to the readout, Russia spoke positively about China’s “objective and fair” stance on Ukraine and both sides opposed any country or group of countries harming the “legitimate security interests of other countries in pursuit of military, political or other advantages.”

Russia reiterated its commitment to resuming peace talks as soon as possible, which China appreciated, according to People’s Daily. Russia also welcomed China playing an “active role” in finding a solution to the conflict in Ukraine through political and diplomatic means, including some of the measures China proposed in its 12-point peace plan.

Both leaders said that the “legitimate security concerns of all countries” must be respected when it comes to how to end the war and attempts that “add fuel to fire” as well as “confrontation between blocs” must be prevented, the readout said.

Both sides also opposed any unilateral sanctions unauthorized by the United Nations Security Council.

Lavrov on UK’s supply of depleted uranium shells to Ukraine: Such actions undermine stability

The decision of the United Kingdom to provide Kiev with depleted uranium tank ammunition undermines stability in the world, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on Tuesday.

Earlier in the day, UK Minister of State for Defense Annabel Goldie said that the country will provide Ukraine with depleted uranium tank ammunition, including armor piercing shells for Challenger 2 battle tanks.

“I will not be surprised by this, because they have already lost perspective in terms of how these actions undermine strategic stability around the world,” Lavrov told a Russian broadcaster.

The minister added that this decision shows that the UK is ready to not only just take risks, but also commit war crimes.

“If this is true, then they [UK authorities] are ready to not only just take risks, but violate the international humanitarian law, as it was in 1999 in Yugoslavia, and many other things, including war crimes, crimes against humanity,” Lavrov said.

Putin: Russia will be forced to react if west atarts using weapons with nuclear components

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