Saturday, May 18, 2024

Live Update: Russia’s “Special Operation” in Ukraine; Day 424

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:

Ex-president warns Russia will scrap grain deal if G7 bans exports

Former Russian president Dmitry Medvedev stated on Sunday that if the G7 moved to ban exports to Russia, Moscow would respond by terminating the Black Sea Grain deal that enables vital exports of grain from Ukraine.

The Group of Seven (G7) countries are considering a near-total ban on exports to Russia, Japan’s Kyodo news agency reported last week, citing Japanese government sources. Russia has repeatedly threatened to scrap its participation in the grain deal, which is due to expire on May 18.

“This idea from the idiots at the G7 about a total ban of exports to our country by default is beautiful in that it implies a reciprocal ban on imports from our country, including categories of goods that are the most sensitive for the G7,” Medvedev said in a post on his Telegram channel.

“In such a case, the grain deal – and many other things that they need – will end for them,” he added.

The G7 is reportedly discussing reversing its sanctions approach so that exports to Russia are automatically banned unless they are included on a designated list of products allowed to be shipped to the country. Under the current framework, goods are allowed to be sold to Russia unless they are explicitly black-listed.

Baltic states condemn China envoy’s remarks over sovereignty of ex-Soviet nations

France, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania have expressed dismay after China’s ambassador in Paris questioned the sovereignty not only of Ukraine, but all the former Soviet Republics including the Baltic states.

Lu Shaye’s remarks in a TV interview late on Friday raise fresh questions about the faith the French president, Emmanuel Macron, has placed in China to act as a mediator between Russia and Ukraine.

Lu had been asked whether he considered the peninsula of Crimea, which was annexed by Russia in 2014, part of Ukraine under international law.

“Even these ex-Soviet Union countries do not have effective status, as we say, under international law because there’s no international accord to concretise their status as a sovereign country,” Lu stated.

Lu’s comments appeared to brush aside the sovereignty of countries, including ironically Russia, that formally recognised each other after the Soviet Union’s dissolution and are represented at the United Nations and in European security organisations.

Asked if Crimea was part of Ukraine, he said the answer depended on one’s position, and it was not so simple.

He added: “There is a history here where Crimea was originally part of Russia. It was Khrushchev who offered Crimea to Ukraine during the period of the Soviet Union”.

Russia gains more ground in battle for Bakhmut: Defense ministry

Russia announced its forces have managed to capture more territory in the heavily contested city of Bakhmut in the Donetsk region.

Russia’s defense ministry said in a statement on Sunday that troops secured two more blocks in Bakhmut’s western districts and that airborne units were providing reinforcements to the north and south.

Yevgeny Prigozhin, head of the private Wagner military force, stated his troops control 80% of Bakhmut.

The battle over the city has been dragging on for months.

Ukraine has already acknowledged that Russian forces had made some advances in fierce fighting for Bakhmut but still alleged that the situation was under control.

Ukraine needs far more military support to defeat Russia this year: Kyiv

Ukraine needs to receive significantly more military support than allies have provided so far in order “to finish Russian aggression this year,” Ukraine’s Deputy Foreign Minister Andriy Melnyk said.

“We are thankful to our allies for their military help. But it is not enough. Ukraine needs 10 times more to finish Russian aggression this year,” Melnyk tweeted.

He called on Ukraine’s partners to “cross all artificial red lines” and devote 1% of GDP to supply weapons to Ukraine.

“Our allies have to comprehend the scale of this war,” the deputy minister said in a conversation with Ukrainian media.

Melnyk cited US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin’s comment that an international coalition has so far provided Ukraine with $55 billion worth of support.

“That seems like a large number. But in contrast with the Second World War, where, unfortunately, more and more parallels can be drawn, over $50 billion worth of help was supplied under US lend-lease alone in the 1940s,” the Ukrainian official continued, adding, “The equivalent today would be around $700-800 billion.”

Modern battle tanks are among the key contributions provided to Ukraine by Western allies, with Ukrainian forces set to begin training on how to operate Abrams tanks next month.

The coalition’s $55 billion in security assistance for Ukraine has included “more than 230 tanks and more than 1,550 armored vehicles and other equipment and munitions,” according to Austin.

Russia and Ukraine are trading positions in the grueling fight for Bakhmut: Ukrainian commanders

Russia’s regular forces and fighters from the Wagner private military company are launching nonstop assaults on the eastern city of Bakhmut, according to Ukrainian commanders on the front lines.

The situation there “remains extremely tense,” Yurii Fedorenko, the commander of a company in Ukraine’s 92nd Mechanized Brigade, told Ukrainian television.

“The fighting is extremely difficult,” Fedorenko said, adding, “The enemy is using all available attack and assault potential, both in terms of equipment and manpower.”

Russian paratroopers and special forces have joined the assault, and they’ve had some tactical success, according to the commander. Russia uses onslaughts from aircraft to “literally destroy” Ukrainian positions, then moves forward to fill up the vacuum, Fedorenko stated.

But, the commander continued, Kyiv’s troops are conducting “active defense” and retaking some positions, “both on the outskirts of the town and in the town itself, pushing the enemy away from the communication routes and driving them out of their positions.”

Some positions change hands back and forth through the course of battle.

Another officer, Lt. Roman Konon, said Russian forces are pushing ahead with unprecedented force, destroying everything in their path. Each side is suffering casualties, Konon continued.

Fedorenko endorsed the grinding, monthslong efforts to defend Bakhmut, claiming “the enemy suffers much greater losses during the assault than the Ukrainian forces.”

And if Ukraine allowed Russia to achieve its objectives in Bakhmut, the commander stated it would free up “an extremely large number of forces and means, which are quickly redeployed to other areas of priority and importance to the enemy.”

That could include the eastern cities of Marinka or Lyman.

As long as Russia is tied up fighting in Bakhmut, Ukraine is able to “destroy this strike and assault potential of the enemy,” Fedorenko continued.

“Sooner or later, we will have to regain every centimeter, every meter of Bakhmut — which means everything that we can hold here and now, needs to be held now,” the commander added.

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