Monday, June 17, 2024

Live Update: Russia’s “Special Operation” in Ukraine; Day 422

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:

Russians “advancing in some areas” in Bakhmut: Ukrainian deputy DM

As the Russian offensive in the east continues, Moscow’s forces in the south – in the Zaporizhzhia and Kherson regions – are on the defensive, according to Ukraine’s deputy defense minister.

“The east remains the epicenter. There, the enemy continues offensive actions in four directions simultaneously – Marinka, Avdiivka, Lyman, Bakhmut,” Hanna Maliar posted on Telegram.

“Thanks to our defenders, the enemy is not able to advance in most of them,” she added.

Maliar said that the fiercely contested city of Bakhmut remained the hottest spot, noting, “The enemy is attacking. It is destroying houses and buildings to the ground. It is advancing in some areas.”

Elsewhere, she said, “the enemy tried to move in two more directions this week – Kupiansk [to the north in Kharkiv region] and Shakhtarsk [to the east].”

“But our soldiers repelled the attacks and the enemy did not advance,” she stated.

Maliar added that some settlements in the Chernihiv, Sumy, Kharkiv regions continue to be shelled. These northern regions border Russia and have frequently come under artillery and mortar fire.

US will begin training Ukrainian troops on Abrams tanks

The United States will begin training Ukrainian forces on how to use and maintain Abrams tanks in the coming weeks, as the it continues to speed up its effort to get them onto the battlefield as quickly as possible, US officials confirmed.

The decision comes as defence leaders from around Europe and the world are meeting at Ramstein Air Base in Germany in the ongoing effort to coordinate the delivery of weapons and other equipment to Ukraine.

According to the officials, 31 tanks will arrive at Grafenwoehr Training Area in Germany at the end of May, and the troops will begin training a couple of weeks later.

Officials stated that the troop training will last about 10 weeks.

The training tanks will not be the ones given to Ukraine as it fights against Russia’s invasion. Instead, 31 M1A1 battle tanks are being refurbished in the United States, and those will go to the frontlines when they are ready.

Russia tells taxi drivers and supermarket stackers to join army in latest advert

Russia is calling on young men working in menial jobs such as driving taxis to sign up for war and prove they are “real men” in a slick new recruitment advert released by the ministry of defence.

The clip aired on Wednesday night and marked the first time the Kremlin has turned to television to boost the size of its battered army.

The country is gripped by rumours that Moscow may announce another mobilisation to shore up its defences ahead of an expected Ukrainian counter-offensive, with parliament recently tightening laws on dodging the draft.

US says allies have provided $55 billion in security assistance to Ukraine

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said Western defense leaders are ready to build upon “impressive progress” while delivering opening remarks at the start of the 11th Ukraine Defense Contact Group meeting in Germany on Friday.

“It’s been nearly one year ago since this group first met right here at Ramstein,” Austin added, “this contact group started from a place of moral clarity.”

“More than a year later, Ukraine is stall standing strong,” Austin said, adding that the group has provided more than $55 billion in security assistance.

Austin outlined the military equipment countries in the group have provided Ukraine, including ammunition and Leopard tanks. The group, formed in June 2022, consists of more than 40 countries.

“This contact group also provided air defense systems to protect Ukraine’s skies and infrastructure,” Austin stated, adding, “That includes Patriot systems from the United States, Germany, and the Netherlands.”

The Patriot missile defense system, which is highly effective at intercepting ballistic and cruise missiles, is broadly seen as one of the most advanced and effective air defense systems.

“Our common efforts have made a huge difference to Ukraine defenders on the battlefield,” the defense secretary continued.

Austin thanked fellow counterparts for their unwavering support, mentioning the European Union’s plan to increase the production and delivery of ammunition to Ukraine.

“This contact group is more united than ever,” Austin concluded, adding, “we will not let anything fracture our unity.”

NATO chief reaffirms Ukraine will eventually join alliance

All NATO allies have agreed that Ukraine will eventually become a member of the alliance but the main focus now is to ensure the country prevails against Russia, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said on Friday.

Speaking ahead of a meeting of the Ukraine defence contact group at Ramstein air base in Germany, he also told reporters that, once the war in Ukraine ends, Kyiv must have “the deterrence to prevent new attacks”.

China says no country has right to interfere in its ties with Russia

China’s foreign ministry announced that no country has the right to interfere in its relationship with Russia.

Ministry Spokesperson Wang Wenbin made the remark at a news briefing when asked to comment on US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen saying that China’s “no limits” partnership with Russia indicated it was not serious about ending the war in Ukraine.

Russian drones attack Ukrainian capital Kyiv

At least 12 drones were launched on the Ukrainian capital Kyiv early Friday, according to the Air Force of the Ukrainian Armed Forces.

Ukraine’s air defense destroyed eight of the drones, which the military said were launched from the Bryansk region of Russia.

“After 25 days of calm, the capital of Ukraine has been subjected to another air attack by the enemy,” Serhii Popko, head of Kyiv city military administration, wrote on Telegram.

No casualties or damage have been reported, Popko added.

Now is not time to discuss Ukraine NATO membership: Germany

German Defence Minister Boris Pistorius rejected a quick decision on Ukraine’s membership at Nato, the Western alliance that has supported Ukraine throughout its war with Russia, with member states supplying it with weapons.

Kyiv wants the military alliance to offer it membership.

“The door is open a crack, but this is not the time to decide now,” Mr Pistorius said late on Thursday on ZDF’s Maybrit Illner program, adding that Ukraine was aware of the decision-making situation.

Mr Pistorius said the decision of Ukraine joining the alliance could not be made just out of solidarity but “with a cool head and a hot heart. Not the other way around.”

Ukraine’s possible membership in Nato or the European Union will not be discussed at the fourth Ukraine Defence Contact Group meeting at Ramstein US Air Base in southern Germany on Friday, the minister added.

Russian plane drops munitions over Russian border city, causing large explosion

A Russian fighter jet was forced to make “an emergency drop of aviation munition” over a Russian city Thursday, causing a large explosion in a central neighborhood, according to a state news agency and local officials.

A Russian Air Force Su-34 jet was flying over the border city of Belgorod, just north of Ukraine, when it was forced to drop the explosives for reasons that are still under investigation, according to Russian news agency RIA Novosti, which cited the Russian defense ministry.

Officials have not immediately reported any casualties, Belgorod Gov. Vyacheslav Gladkov said in a Telegram post.

The explosion rocked an intersection in the city’s center and left a “huge impact crater” that was 20 meters (about 65 feet) wide, Gladkov continued.

“Windows in a nearby apartment building were damaged, as well as several parked cars. Electricity poles were downed,” he added.

An overturned car landed on the roof of a store near a residential high-rise building, according to RIA Novosti. Emergency teams are at the scene, the outlet said.

Belgorod is located about 40 kilometers (roughly 25 miles) north of the border with Ukraine.

Zelensky appeals to Mexico’s Congress

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky appealed to Mexico’s Congress Thursday to help defend the territorial integrity of Ukraine.

“Your vote in the UN General Assembly and other international organizations is very important,” Zelensky said via video.

“It is the vote to defend the principles and objectives of the UN Charter and therefore to defend the territorial integrity of Ukraine and all nations of the world,” he added.

Zelensky received a standing ovation from lawmakers before and after his speech.

Biden and Macron discuss Ukraine on call: White House

US President Joe Biden discussed Ukraine with French President Emmanuel Macron in a call Thursday, according to the White House.

The leaders in the call “reiterated their steadfast support for Ukraine in the face of Russia’s brutal aggression.”

The two also talked about Macron’s visit to China as well as “their ongoing efforts to advance prosperity, security, shared values, and the rules-based international order in the Indo-Pacific region.”

“China had a role to play in contributing, in the medium term, to an end to the conflict in accordance with the principles and purposes of the United Nations Charter,” a readout of the call from Elysee Palace stated.

Both heads of state also agreed on the “importance of continuing to engage” the Chinese authorities on this basis.

Russian FM to meet with UN chief on Monday in New York

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will meet with United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres in New York on Monday, Russian state media TASS reported Thursday.

Almost all members of Lavrov’s delegation to the UN Security Council were issued visas to attend, Russia’s Permanent Representative to the UN Vasily Nebenzya told state television Russia 24, according to TASS.

He said visas had not yet been issued to journalists.

Earlier this week, Nebenzya stated that Lavrov is set to discuss the Black Sea grain deal with Guterres during his visit to New York.

Russia took over the presidency of the UN Security Council on April 1 in what Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba called “a bad joke.”

NATO membership for Ukraine will be “high on agenda” at alliance’s summit in July: Chief

The topic of Ukraine’s NATO membership and security guarantees will be “high on the agenda” at July’s NATO summit in the Lithuanian capital of Vilnius, the military alliance’s chief stated on Thursday.

Answering questions from reporters during a news conference in Kyiv, Jens Stoltenberg said that he recognizes that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky will “raise the issue of membership, of security guarantees” at the summit.

“Ukraine’s future is in NATO. All allies agree on that,” Stoltenberg continued, adding that the main focus of the alliance now is “to ensure that Ukraine prevails.”

The official noted that he expects NATO allies to “agree to further strengthen NATO’s package for Ukraine” at the July summit.

He stated that Ukraine’s “rightful place is in NATO”.

Stoltenberg added he had discussed a “multiyear support initiative” with Ukrainian Zelensky, which would help Ukraine transition from Soviet-era equipment and doctrines to “NATO standards.”

This would “ensure full interoperability with the alliance,” he stressed.

Asked about Friday’s meeting of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group at Ramstein Air Base in Germany, which Stoltenberg will be attending, he said he expects NATO allies “will make new announcements on concrete military support to Ukraine.”

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