Friday, June 21, 2024

Russia’s “Special Operation” in Ukraine; Day 412: UN confirms almost 8,500 civilians killed in Ukraine war

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:

Decision on western fighter jets for Ukraine likely ‘before summer’: Denmark

Denmark’s acting defence minister, Troels Lund Poulsen, has stated he expects his countries and its allies to decide on whether to supply western fighter jets to Ukraine “before the summer”.

Discussions are taking time because countries have to act together, Poulsen said during a visit to Ukraine.

“Denmark will not do it alone,” he continued, adding that a decision was still achievable “in the near future”.

“We need to do this together with several countries. We will also have a dialogue with the Americans about this,” he stated.

Poulsen has previously said Denmark was “open” to the idea of sending fighter jets to Ukraine to help its war effort against the Russian invasion.

The Danish air force has bought 77 F-16 jets since the 1970s, according to its armed forces. About 30 of them are currently in operation, according to local media reports.

His comments came as Nato members Poland and Slovakia have recently begun to hand over MiG-29 fighter jets to Ukraine.

But a top Ukrainian air commander last week said that while donations of Soviet-era MiG-29 fighter jets by allies were an “important step”, Ukraine was in need of F-16 fighter jets, which he described as being “four or five times” more effective than the Soviet-era planes currently used by Ukraine.

Serhiy Holubtsov, one of the most senior commanders in Ukraine’s air force, noted, “The F-16 is a fighter that has become a multirole aircraft which can fulfil the entire spectrum of airborne tasks. The MiG-29 unfortunately, is (an aircraft) from the last century.”

Russia accuses Ukraine, West of recruiting youth for ‘sabotage’

The head of Russia’s FSB security service, Alexander Bortnikov, accused Ukraine and the West of recruiting young Russians to stage armed attacks.

“In the conditions of Russia conducting the special military operation, Ukrainian special forces and their Western curators have launched an aggressive ideological indoctrination and recruitment of our citizens,” Bortnikov told a meeting in Moscow of the National Anti-Terrorism Committee.

“Especially the younger generation, to involve them in sabotage, terrorist and extremist activities,” he added, according to a statement from the committee.

In early April, a famous Russian military blogger Vladlen Tatarsky was killed in a blast in a cafe in St Petersburg after a woman handed him a bust that later exploded, wounding more than 40 others.

While little is known about the attack, Russia has blamed Ukraine and said it was orchestrated with help from supporters of jailed critic Alexey Navalny.

Romania to buy latest generation of US F-35 jets

Romania aims to buy the latest generation of US F-35 fighter planes to boost its air defences, the country’s supreme Defence Council (CSAT) announced.

“Having robust, credible, interoperable, flexible and efficient air defence operational capabilities … as part of our commitments as a NATO and EU state is key to Romania meeting its defence policy objectives,” the statement said.

“The air force’s modernisation process will continue through the acquisition of last generation F-35 jets,” it added.

The EU and NATO state have raised defence spending to 2.5 percent of gross domestic product this year from 2 percent, in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

But the council did not elaborate on timing or numbers.

Last year, President Klaus Iohannis stated Romania was mulling acquiring F-35 planes, which US weapons maker Lockheed Martin Corp makes.

UN confirms Ukraine death toll reaches 8,500 civilians

A United Nations body confirms that nearly 8,500 civilians have been killed in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, with the likely number much higher.

The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) said it had recorded 8,490 people killed and 14,244 injured between the launch of the invasion on February 24, 2022, and April 9, 2023.

The body has described its figures as “the tip of the iceberg” due to its limited access to battle zones.

“OHCHR believes that the actual figures are considerably higher, as the receipt of information from some locations where intense hostilities have been going on has been delayed and many reports are still pending corroboration,” it announced in a statement.

Most deaths were recorded in territory controlled by the Ukrainian government, including 3,927 people in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions.

Senior Ukrainian official calls for more long-range weapons and “less contemplation on leaks”

Ukraine needs more long-range weapons and “less contemplation on leaks,” said Ukrainian presidential advisor Mykhailo Podolyak, referring to the recent leak of classified Pentagon documents.

“If we had time, we could watch the RF [the Russian Federation] fall apart & its ‘elites’ devour each other. But we don’t have it, as our people are dying,” tweeted Podolyak, an advisor to the head of the Office of the President of Ukraine, on Tuesday

“We need less contemplation on ‘leaks’ and more long-range weapons in order to properly end the war and make the RF face the reality,” he added.

Ukraine has pushed for long range weapons in order to be able to strike ammunition depots and logistics hubs that Russian forces have moved out of range of existing systems.

In January, Ukrainian officials asked for longer range missiles that can reach inside Russia.

But Western allies have so far been careful not to provide Ukraine with systems that can reach Russia in order to reduce the risk of escalating the conflict.

No plans for a second wave of mobilisation: Kremlin

The Kremlin announced that there are no plans for a second wave of mobilisation.

“There is no second wave [of mobilisation],” Dmitry Peskov told reporters.

In response to a question whether there are any changes on this issue, Peskov stressed: “No”.

Ukrainian PM arrives in Canada

Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal arrived in Canada on Tuesday ahead of a meeting with his Canadian counterpart Justin Trudeau, according to his official Twitter account.

Shmyhal said Canada was among the first countries to “stand with Ukraine,” and the two governments are “preparing new agreements and deals to strengthen the macro-financial and economic stability of Ukraine.”

In an interview with Canada’s Globe and Mail newspaper last week, Shmyhal stated he would request ammunition and heavily armored vehicles.

“It’s crucially important for the organization of our counteroffensive,” he told the Globe.

Pentagon leak reveals Egypt secretly planned to give Russia 40,000 rockets

President Abdel Fatah El-Sisi of Egypt recently ordered 40,000 rockets to be shipped to Russia, while keeping production and shipping secret “to avoid problems with the West,” a leaked US intelligence document has revealed.

The top secret document from February 17, originally reported by the Washington Post, recorded alleged conversations between the Egyptian president and his senior officials, revealing there were also plans to send artillery rounds and gunpowder to Moscow.

Asked about the document and its contents, a spokesman for the Egypt Foreign Ministry said: “Egypt’s position from the beginning is based on noninvolvement in this crisis and committing to maintain equal distance with both sides, while affirming Egypt’s support to the UN charter and international law in the UN General Assembly resolutions.”

“We continue to urge both parties to cease hostilities and reach a political solution through negotiations,” ambassador Ahmed Abu Zeid added.

The document was part of the trove of classified US intelligence files and images about the Ukraine war posted on Discord, a chat platform popular with gamers, the leaking of which presents “very serious” risk to national security, according to a top Pentagon spokesman.

Zelensky celebrates prisoner swap, vows to “return all our people”

In his nightly address on Monday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky celebrated the release of some Ukrainian prisoners of war, vowing to “return everyone.”

Russia and Ukraine exchanged more than 200 prisoners in their latest swap, with 80 men and 20 women returning to Ukraine.

“These are a hundred families who got real joy on the eve of Easter. And, of course, we keep working to return all our people from Russian captivity,” Zelensky stated, adding, “We remember everyone! And we will return everyone!”

He also outlined ongoing foreign policy and diplomacy efforts; on Monday, he met prominent British entrepreneur Richard Branson, spoke with the Greek prime minister and struck an agreement with the Iraqi prime minister.

Zelensky said that Germany continues to provide defense assistance, including armored vehicles, ammunition, medicine and more.

Boosting Ukraine’s defense capabilities “protects everyone in the partner countries, everyone in Europe, everyone in the world,” he added.

“The term ‘defeat’ should become a companion to the term ‘aggressor’, and it is only the Ukrainian victory that will ensure this,” Zelensky said.

US aims to rally allies to up pressure on Russia

The US government will seek to rally allies this week to ratchet up economic pressure on Russia over its invasion of Ukraine and shore up support for Kyiv, a top US Treasury official is slated to say.

Treasury Undersecretary Jay Shambaugh will underscore the US’s unwavering commitment to Ukraine in a speech at the Brookings Institution as global finance officials gather in Washington for the International Monetary Fund and World Bank spring meetings, according to excerpts obtained by Reuters.

Shambaugh, who traveled to Kyiv with Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen in February, stated current inflationary pressures could not be separated from the war and its economic spillovers.

US officials review intel sharing after damaging leak: Report

United States security agencies are reviewing how they share sensitive secrets inside the government while dealing with the diplomatic fallout from the release of dozens of confidential documents, the Reuters news said quoting three US officials.

Investigators are also working to determine what person or group might have had the ability and motivation to release the intelligence reports, stated one of the officials.

The leaks could be the most damaging release of US government information since the 2013 publication of thousands of documents on WikiLeaks.

Biden staying briefed on leaked documents: White House

US President Joe Biden is staying briefed on the highly classified Pentagon documents leaked in recent weeks, the White House said Monday.

“The president has been briefed, he was first briefed late last week when we all got word that there were some documents out there,” National Security Council Coordinator for Strategic Communications John Kirby told reporters at a White House press briefing Monday afternoon.

“He has stayed briefed and in contact with national security officials throughout the weekend,” he added.

Kirby stated the Department of Defense had referred the case to the Department of Justice for criminal investigation and directed questions to them when asked if the government has any sense of who leaked the documents,

“I’m not aware that they’ve come to any conclusions at this point about where they’re coming from,” Kirby continued.

Asked if the administration believed the leak is contained or if there’s an ongoing threat, Kirby responded: “We don’t know. We truly don’t.”

The documents provided a rare window into how the US spies on allies and foes alike, deeply rattling US officials, who fear the revelations could jeopardize sensitive sources and compromise important foreign relationships.

In response to questions about whether Biden has contacted foreign allies in response, Kirby said US officials “have been in touch with relevant allies and partners over the last couple of days at very high levels.”

Kirby added “we know that some of them have been doctored,” but that he didn’t want to “speak to the validity of all the documents.”

“We’re still working through the validity of all the documents that we know are out there,” Kirby continued.

Pressed on if the US believes that some of the documents are valid, Kirby said the administration “cannot speak to the veracity and the validity of any of those documents at this point.”

Kirby added that there is, “no excuse for these kinds of documents to be in the public domain” and he stated the bigger concern was that the documents had become public at all.

Pentagon says it’s still working to determine scale of intel leak, which included information on Ukraine

The Pentagon is still working to determine the scale of a leak of classified information that has occurred in recent weeks, Chris Meagher, assistant to the secretary of defense for public affairs, said Monday.

Some of the leaked documents included intelligence related to the war in Ukraine.

“The Department of Defense is working around the clock to look at the scope and scale of the distribution, the assessed impact, and our mitigation measures,” Meagher continued, adding, “We’re still investigating how this happened, as well as the scope of the issue. There have been steps to take a closer look at how this type of information is distributed and to whom. We’re also still trying to assess what might be out there.”

Meagher said Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin was first briefed on the leak on April 6 and began “convening senior leaders on a daily basis” the next day.

Over the weekend, US officials engaged with allies and partners — some of whom were also implicated in the document leak, Meagher added.

The Pentagon team is also working to determine if the leak of classified material includes the Defense Department’s legislative affairs, public affairs, policy, general counsel, intelligence and security, and joint staff offices, Meagher continued.

Meagher stated the team is a “coordinated effort amongst several different components of DOD” who were all working to “get our arms around everything that has to do with” the leak.

Meagher declined to say who specifically was in charge of that team and overseeing those efforts.

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