Saturday, May 18, 2024

Live Update: Russia’s “Special Operation” in Ukraine; Day 408

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:

Any peace talks must be centred on ‘new world order’: Russia

Moscow wants any Ukraine peace talks to be centred on creating a “new world order”, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on a visit to Turkey.

“Any negotiation needs to be based on taking into account Russian interests … needs to be about the principles on which the new world order will be based,” Lavrov stated.

He added that Russia rejects a “unipolar world order led by ‘one hegemon’”.

Kremlin followed ‘important talks’ between China, France and EU

The Kremlin says it has followed “important talks” between Chinese President Xi Jinping, French President Emmanuel Macron, and EU Commission chief Ursula Von Der Leyen, but added that China would not change its position on the Ukraine conflict under external influence.

Macron told his Chinese counterpart on Thursday that, “Russian aggression in Ukraine had dealt a blow to (international) stability.

“I know I can count on you to bring Russia back to its senses and everyone back to the negotiating table,” he added.

While Xi said China’s policy on Ukraine could be summed up in one sentence – “promote peace and dialogue”, he added that the top priority is to encourage a ceasefire and to end the war

Turkey agrees to lift Russian obstacles to grain deal

Turkey’s foreign minister has agreed with Russia’s request to lift obstacles to Russian fertiliser and grain exports and says this needs to be addressed to extend the overall Black Sea grain deal further.

Mevlut Cavusoglu said at a news conference in Ankara alongside Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov that Turkey was committed to extending the deal to ensure the safe passage of grains and other commodities from Black Sea ports.

In the news conference, Lavrov stated obstacles to Russian agricultural exports were getting more challenging and that they had discussed what he described as a “failure” to implement the terms of the agreement.

Leaked documents a Russian disinformation operation: Ukraine

A Ukrainian presidential official said that a leak of classified documents detailing US and NATO plans to help Kyiv looked like a Russian disinformation operation to sow doubts about Ukraine’s planned counter-offensive.

Mykhailo Podolyak told the Reuters news agency that the leaked data reported by The New York Times on Thursday contained a “very large amount of fictitious information” and that Russia was trying to seize back the initiative in its invasion.

“These are just standard elements of operational games by Russian intelligence. And nothing more,” he said in a written statement.

“Russia is looking for any ways to seize back the initiative,” Podolyak added.

“To try to influence the scenarios for Ukraine’s counteroffensive plans. To introduce doubts, to compromise the … ideas, and finally to intimidate (us) with how ‘informed’ they are,” he continued.

Russia has ‘highly likely’ advanced into centre of Bakhmut: UK intelligence

Russia appears to have made important gains in Bakhmut, the British defence ministry has announced.

The UK Ministry of Defence says in its daily update that Russian forces have “highly likely advanced into the [Bakhmut] town centre, and has seized the West Bank of the Bakhmutka River.”

“Ukraine’s key supply route to the west of the town is likely severely threatened,” it added.

“There is realistic possibility that, locally, Wagner and Russian MoD commanders have paused their ongoing feud and improved cooperation,” it noted.

Pentagon investigating leak of US and NATO files: Report

The Pentagon is investigating a reported security breach that saw documents that provide details of US and NATO plans to help prepare Ukraine for a spring offensive against Russia have leaked to social media platforms, The New York Times daily reported.

“We are aware of the reports of social media posts, and the Department is reviewing the matter,” Deputy Press Secretary of the US Department of Defence Sabrina Singh said.

The documents were spread on Twitter and Telegram, and reportedly contain charts and details about weapons deliveries, battalion strengths and other sensitive information, the Times said.

Information in the documents is at least five weeks old, with the most recent dated 1 March, the report added.

One of the documents summarized the training schedules of 12 Ukraine combat brigades, and said nine of them were being trained by US and NATO forces, and needed 250 tanks and more than 350 mechanized vehicles, the newspaper reported.

The documents – at least one of which carried a “top secret” label – were circulated on pro-Russian government channels, it noted.

Turkey tells US it hopes Sweden will fulfill NATO commitments: Ankara

Turkey’s defence minister has told his US counterpart that Finland’s new NATO membership showed its support for enlargement and that it hoped Sweden would fulfil commitments under its own bid as soon as possible, Ankara has announced.

A Turkish defence ministry readout of the call between Hulusi Akar and US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said the pair also discussed the importance of a rapid conclusion of Turkey’s bid to procure and modernise F-16 fighter jets.

Greece pledges more military assistance to Ukraine for ‘as long as it takes’

Greece has pledged military assistance to Ukraine for “as long as it takes”, but officials have also cautioned that the country needs to keep much of its Russian-made weaponry for its own defensive needs.

Ukrainian Defence Minister Oleksii Reznikov visited Athens and was promised more artillery and small arms ammunition shipments, access to Greek hospitals for wounded military personnel and additional Soviet-era BMP infantry fighting vehicles.

Greece “will provide every support to Ukraine at this very important, crucial stage of the war,” Greek Defence Minister Nikos Panagiotopoulos said during a joint appearance with Reznikov.

“We will continue to support Ukraine for as long as it takes — that’s a very clear position that we have taken from the outset,” he added.

Russia, which had traditionally close ties with Greece before the war in Ukraine, for decades was a supplier of arms to the NATO member, including the S-300 air defence missile system.

White House: Russian refusal to give consular access to detained reporter is ‘inexcusable’

Russia’s refusal to give consular access to detained Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich is “inexcusable”, the White House has announced.

“We need to get consular access to Evan,” National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters.

Russia’s foreign ministry has said it is “pointless” to try to pressure Moscow about its case against US journalist Evan Gershkovich, who is being held in Russia on suspicion of espionage.

“Hype around this case, which is being fanned in the United States, with the aim of pressuring Russian authorities and the court … is pointless and meaningless,” Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov told US Ambassador Lynne Tracy, according to a statement.

“Most intense battles” occurring in 3 cities in eastern Ukraine: Military

The “most intense battles” are raging for Bakhmut, Avdiivka and Mariinka in eastern Ukraine, with Ukrainian troops focused on the battered city of Bakhmut to try to exhaust the Russians, the Ukrainian military announced.

Ukrainian forces repelled more than 20 Russian attacks over the last 24 hours, the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine said. Russian forces launched four missiles and seven air strikes, the General Staff added, firing “more than 10 times from multiple launch rocket systems at the positions of our troops and civilian infrastructure of settlements.”

“The enemy continues to focus its main efforts on conducting offensive actions at the Lyman, Bakhmut, Avdiivka and Mariinka directions,” the General Staff said, adding, “The most intense fighting is taking place for the towns of Bakhmut, Avdiivka and Mariinka.”

Russian forces continue their offensive to take full control of Bakhmut, the military said, and Ukrainian defense forces repelled about 10 enemy attacks in this area alone. More than 15 settlements in the combat area were targeted by Russian shelling, it added.

“Bakhmut remains the main direction of enemy’s attacks. Just over this day, there were 302 shelling with various calibers along the Bakhmut sector front line by the enemy. There were 22 combat clashes,” Serhii Cherevatyi, spokesman for the eastern grouping of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, said on national television Thursday.

Cherevatyi added that the Russian force in Bakhmut, “replenished by Russian prisoners, is now very shattered and has to be reinforced by paratroopers, motorized rifle units of the occupying army, which in turn largely consist of freshly mobilized personnel.”

“Our defenders of Bakhmut are now doing the main thing: They are exhausting the occupier’s capabilities, knocking out their morale, so that when our reserves, who are now training and mastering new equipment abroad and in Ukraine, are ready, they will drive this evil out of our land forever,” Cherevatyi continued.

Biden and Macron ‘share concerns’ about China’s support for Russia: US

The US Department of State has said that President Joe Biden discussed the French president’s visit to China in a phone call with Emmanuel Macron earlier this week, and the two leaders reiterated their “steadfast” support for Ukraine.

“The United States and France share concerns regarding the challenge the PRC [People’s Republic of China] poses to the rules-based international order, including through Beijing’s ongoing support for Russia’s war against Ukraine,” Department of State spokesperson Vedant Patel said.

Washington has previously warned Beijing against providing military support to Moscow’s war efforts.

Xi says ceasefire is “top priority” for China

Beijing’s “top priority” is to push for a ceasefire and end the war in Ukraine, Chinese President Xi Jinping told European Union Commission Chief Ursula Von der Leyen and French President Emmanuel Macron during their meeting Thursday, according to the Chinese readout.

Xi emphasized his view that the war in Ukraine is not a conflict between China and Europe.
“China urges all parties to remain calm and reason, and work together to create conditions for peace talks … We oppose attempts that would add fuel to fire and complicate the situation,” the readout said, adding that China seeks to play an active role in promoting peace talks and dialogues.

Xi also stated that China and Europe should uphold mutual respect, increase political trust, enhance dialogue and cooperation, and shore up stability of China-EU relations.

Beijing has claimed neutrality on the war in Ukraine, but has not condemned Russia’s invasion and instead bolstered its economic and diplomatic ties with Moscow over the past year.
Beijing has sought to cast itself as a peacemaker in recent months, releasing a vaguely worded position paper on the “political solution” to the conflict in Ukraine. It was met with skepticism by the United States and its allies.

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