Sunday, May 26, 2024

Russia’s “Special Operation” in Ukraine; Day 421: NATO’s chief makes surprise visit to Kyiv

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:

Now is the time for Ukraine to join NATO: Zelensky

President Volodymyr Zelensky said it was time for NATO to take the political decision to invite Ukraine to join the military alliance.

“I am grateful for the invitation to visit the summit, but it is also important for Ukraine to receive the corresponding invitation,” he told reporters.

“There is not a single objective barrier to the political decision to invite Ukraine into the alliance and now, when most people in NATO countries and the majority of Ukrainians support NATO accession, is the time for the corresponding decisions,” the president added.

Ukraine’s future lies in NATO: Alliance chief

Ukraine’s future lies in NATO, the alliance’s chief Jens Stoltenberg, said during his first visit to wartime Ukraine.

“Let me be clear: Ukraine’s rightful place is in the euro-Atlantic family. Ukraine’s rightful place is in NATO. And over time, our support will help you to make this possible,” Stoltenberg told reporters during a joint press conference with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in Kyiv.

Stoltenberg pledged continued military support for Ukraine, saying NATO allies had trained tens of thousands of troops and provided 65 billion euros ($71.31bn) of military aid alone.

“NATO stands with you today, tomorrow and for as long as it takes,” Stoltenberg stated before inviting Zelensky to the NATO summit in Vilnius in July.

Switzerland expands Russia sanctions list, adding Wagner group and Russian news agency RIA

Switzerland is extending its list of sanctions relating to Russia to include the Wagner private military group and state news agency, RIA, as Western allies hit the country with bans designed to isolate it from the global economy.

In a statement on Thursday, the Swiss Department of Economic Affairs, Education and Research (EAER) justified that it is sanctioning the Wagner group for “their active involvement in Russia’s military aggression against Ukraine” and RIA for its “dissemination of pro-government propaganda and disinformation.”

“Switzerland is adopting the sanctioning of these two organizations and thus strengthens the effect of the EU (European Union) measures,” the EAER statement outlined.

Switzerland broke its neutrality status quo shortly after Russia’s war on Ukraine began by adopting the EU’s sanction package against Russia. On Wednesday, Swiss President Alain Berset said the country is taking the implementation of sanctions “seriously” and is “doing everything that can be done in order to enforce them.”

Switzerland also updated its stance on broadcasters RT Arabic and Sputnik Arabic, which the EU placed under a broadcasting and advertising ban on April 10. The EAER announced that the broadcasting of the two channels would not be banned in Switzerland; however, advertising on the two channels is now forbidden.

Russia showed surprising resilience to unprecedented Western sanctions in the first year of the war. However, cracks started to appear after President Vladimir Putin last month conceded that the restrictions could deal a blow to the country’s economy.

The sanctions have also contributed to Russia’s military decline, cutting off access to certain military systems needed to operate weapons.

NATO chief makes unannounced visit to Ukraine’s Kyiv

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg made an unannounced visit to Kyiv on Thursday, Ukrainian media reported.

Several Ukrainian media published images of the NATO chief in central Kyiv at a memorial for fallen soldiers.

Any weapons supplies to Ukraine to be considered as anti-Russian move: Moscow

Moscow considers any supplies of weapons to Ukraine as an openly hostile anti-Russian move, Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said on Thursday, commenting on South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol‘s statements on possible deliveries of South Korean weapons to Ukraine.

“Russia is conducting defensive military operations against the collective West, which has chosen the puppet regime in Kiev as an instrument of its hybrid proxy war against us. In this situation, we will consider any supplies of weapons to Ukraine, wherever they might come from, as an openly hostile anti-Russian move,” she stressed.

“Such steps will negatively impact bilateral relations with those states that take them and will be taken into account when elaborating Russia’s positions on issues concerning core security interests of the relevant countries. As for South Korea, it might be about the approaches to the settlement of the situation on the Korean Peninsula,” she said.

She recalled that Russian forces deliver high-precision strikes solely at military targets, not at civil infrastructure facilities.

“As for concerns about victims among civilians, regrettably, this is a reality Donbass residents were faced with back in 2014 as a result of the aggression by the junta which seized power in Kiev. It was one of the key causes of the current crisis. We have seen no compassion for these numerous victims from the collective West, including Seoul,” Zakharova stressed.

Denmark and Netherlands to donate 14 Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine

Denmark and the Netherlands have jointly agreed to “acquire, refurbish and donate” 14 Leopard 2A4 tanks for Ukraine, as Western allies increase efforts to bolster Kyiv’s military ammunition amid dwindling supplies.

“The Leopard 2 tanks will be supplied to Ukraine from early 2024, as part of our long-term commitment to Ukraine. The estimated cost of 165 million euros will be equally divided between our nations. In this way, we will jointly take part in the ‘Leopard 2 coalition’, supported by many partners and allies,” the countries defense ministries said in a joint statement on Thursday.

Denmark and the Netherlands previously agreed along with Germany to supply more than 100 Leopard 1 battle tanks to Ukraine by spring 2024.

“Our two nations will continue to explore other possible areas for joint procurement of additional capabilities with the aim of supporting Ukraine. We are determined to support Ukraine for as long as it takes. Ukraine must be able to defend itself against Russia’s invasion,” the joint statement continued.

Leopard 2 tanks are seen as a vital, modern military vehicle that would strengthen Kyiv’s forces because they are fuel efficient, and have relatively low-maintenance demands compared to other models, leading experts to believe the tanks could help Ukraine quickly.

Air raid alerts reported across Ukraine

Air raid alerts went into force Wednesday night across several parts of Ukraine, according to the Kyiv Regional Military Administration.

The administration announced that an “air target was detected in the sky” and that “air defense forces are ready.”

A series of flashes and an apparent explosion in the air some distance from the capital can be seen in social media video.

Air raid alerts were triggered for Kyiv city and the region, Sumy, Kharkiv, Dnipro, Zaporizhzhia and Donetsk regions.

US State Department announces $325 million in new assistance for Ukraine

The United States is pledging an additional $325 million security assistance package to Ukraine, Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced Wednesday.

The package “includes more ammunition for U.S.-provided HIMARS and artillery rounds, as well as anti-armor systems, small arms, logistics support vehicles, and maintenance support essential to strengthening Ukraine’s defenders on the battlefield,” Blinken said in a statement.

The aid will help Ukraine defend itself against Russia, he stated.

“Russia could end its war today. Until Russia does, the United States and our allies and partners will stand united with Ukraine for as long as it takes,” the statement added.

Ukraine’s prosecutor general says his office has registered about 80,000 incidents of potential war crimes

Ukrainian Prosecutor General Andriy Kostin told US lawmakers Wednesday that his office has registered around 80,000 incidents of potential war crimes, and to date has convicted 31 Russians for war crimes in Ukrainian courts.

Kostin told lawmakers in the House Foreign Affairs Committee that his office has also identified 310 potential perpetrators of the crimes, and has “finished cases against 152 potential war criminals.”

He said some of the cases “are held in absentia because we have identified the perpetrators, we have full set of evidences, but we can’t wait if we someday will capture them, but the procedure of cases in absentia is a little bit longer because of procedural limitations.”

Kostin urged the international community to share intelligence information to help aid his office’s work in convicting alleged war criminals, noting that they have identified thousands more but they do not have complete evidence to convict those alleged criminals.

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