Thursday, May 30, 2024

Russia’s “Special Operation” in Ukraine; Day 434: Zelensky says Ukraine to launch counteroffensive against Russia ‘soon’

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:

White House announced new arms package for Ukraine

The White House has announced a new shipment of heavy artillery and rocket ammunition for Ukraine ahead of its planned offensive.

Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre announced “a new package of security assistance to help Ukraine continue to defend itself”.

This includes ammunition for the highly accurate US-made HIMARS multiple rocket systems, “as well as additional howitzer, artillery and mortar rounds and anti-armor capabilities,” she said.

Jean-Pierre cited “extensive work by the US government over the past few months to fulfill Ukraine’s request ahead of its planned counter-offensive”.

Russia’s Medvedev calls for ‘elimination’ of Ukraine’s Zelensky

Russia’s former President Dmitry Medvedev has called for the “physical elimination” of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky after Moscow accused Kyiv of a drone attack on the Kremlin.

“After today’s terrorist attack, there are no options left aside the physical elimination of Zelensky and his cabal,” Medvedev stated.

Zelensky denies allegedly attacking Kremlin

President Volodymyr Zelensky denies attacking the Kremlin or Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“We don’t attack Putin, or Moscow, we fight on our territory,” Zelensky told a news conference in Helsinki.

Earlier on Wednesday, Russia accused Ukraine of a failed attempt to assassinate Putin in a drone attack on the Kremlin.

Nordic states back Ukraine’s NATO and EU aspirations

The Nordic countries support Ukraine’s efforts to join the EU and NATO.

“The Nordic countries will continue their political, financial, humanitarian and military support for as long as it takes,” the leaders of Finland, Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Iceland said in a joint statement with President Volodymyr Zelensky.

US secretary of state says he “can’t in any way validate” reports of alleged Kremlin drone attack

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said he had seen reports from Moscow of an alleged drone attack by Ukraine on the Kremlin, but he “can’t in any way validate them.”

“We simply don’t know,” Blinken said Wednesday at a Washington Post Live event.

“I would take anything coming out of the Kremlin with a very large shaker of salt,” he added.

“We’ll see what the facts are. And it’s really hard to comment or speculate on this without really knowing what the facts are,” Blinken continued.

The White House has also said it was aware of reports that Russia accused Ukraine of attacking the Kremlin with drones but could not authenticate or confirm the allegations.

“We are aware of the reports but are unable to confirm the … authenticity of them at this time,” White House spokesperson Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters.

Ukraine has denied any knowledge of the alleged drone attack in Moscow.

Sixteen people killed in strike in Kherson: Ukraine

The Ukrainian prosecutor’s office stated that 16 people were killed in a Russian attack on Ukraine’s Kherson region.

It added that 12 of those were killed in the city of Kherson, where a further 22 people were wounded.

Ukrainian officials said Russian forces attacked a superstore and a railway station on Wednesday morning.

EU countries finalise deal to buy ammo for Kyiv

After weeks of disputes between countries, European Union countries finalised a scheme to jointly buy ammunition for Ukraine.

Sweden, the current holder of the EU’s rotating presidency, said the ambassadors approved the decision “to support the Ukrainian Armed Forces through 1 billion euros ($1.10 billion) for joint procurement of ammunition and missiles”.

Details of the compromise were not immediately available.

The joint procurement scheme is part of a broader EU drive to get one million artillery shells and missiles to Ukraine over the next 12 months after Kyiv said it urgently needs such munitions to fight Russia’s invading forces.

Russian official urges no negotiations with Zelensky

The speaker of Russia’s parliament, Vyacheslav Volodin, demanded using “weapons capable of stopping and destroying the Kyiv terrorist regime” in response to an alleged drone attack on the Kremlin on Wednesday.

In a statement posted on Telegram, Volodin said that Russia should not negotiate with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky after the attack, which Kyiv denied.

Russia may sabotage undersea cables: NATO

NATO’s intelligence chief David Cattler said there is a heightened risk Russia may sabotage undersea cables to punish Western nations for supporting Ukraine.

“There are heightened concerns that Russia may target undersea cables and other critical infrastructure in an effort to disrupt western life to gain leverage against those nations that are providing security to Ukraine,” Cattler told reporters.

“The Russians are more active than we have seen them in years in this domain,” he added.

‘Another threat from Kremlin’: Zelensky’s spokeswoman

Spokesperson to President Volodymyr Zelensky, Luliia Mendel, commented on the Kremlin’s allegation of an attempted drone attack on the Kremlin.

On Twitter, Mendel said, “Another threat from the Kremlin. At the beginning of the war, it made several attempts to assassinate Volodymyr Zelensky and kept silent about this.”

“How much trust do we have in Russian information about alleged Ukrainian drone attacks on the Kremlin? After years of lies and provocations?” she asked.

The Kremlin also announced that the attempt was aimed at harming Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Ukraine denies targeting Putin in alleged Kremlin drone strike and accuses Moscow of a “trick”

Ukraine says it has no knowledge of an attempted drone strike on the Kremlin in Moscow, adding that it does not use its means to attack other countries.

“We do not have information on so called night attacks on Kremlin,” the spokesperson for Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, Serhiy Nykyforov, told CNN on Wednesday, when asked about Moscow’s claim that it had foiled a Kyiv-ordered drone strike in the Russian capital.

“As President Zelensky has stated numerous times before, Ukraine uses all means at its disposal to free its own territory, not to attack others,” Nykyforov added.

Russia referred to the incident as an “act of terrorism,” blaming Ukraine, an accusation Nykyforov said was better directed at Moscow.

“A terror attack is destroyed blocks of residential buildings in Dnipro and Uman, or a missile at a line at Kramatorsk rail station and many other tragedies,” he continued, adding, “What happened in Moscow is obviously about escalating the mood on the eve of May 9.”

May 9 marks Victory Day, which celebrates the defeat of Nazi Germany in 1945.

“It’s a trick to be expected from our opponents,” Zelensky’s spokesperson said.

Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak also denied Kyiv had any involvement and said it makes no sense for Ukraine to have carried out the the alleged strike.

“First of all, it absolutely does not solve any military goals. And it is very unhelpful in the context of preparing for our offensive actions. And it definitely does not change anything at a battlefield,” he stated, adding, “This would allow Russia to justify mass strikes on Ukrainian cities, civilians and infrastructure facilities. Why would we need that? What’s the logic?”

“I think it is absolutely obvious that simultaneous ‘announcement of an attack on Kremlin’ and detention of so-called Ukrainian saboteurs in Crimea on a different charge clearly signals Russia is preparing a large-scale terrorist provocation in the coming days,” he continued, providing no evidence for his statement.

Podolyak also said Moscow’s claims were an attempt at controlling the narrative ahead of a much-anticipated Ukrainian counteroffensive.

“Russia without a doubt is very afraid of Ukraine starting an offensive on the front line and is trying to seize the initiative, distract the attention and create distractions of a catastrophic nature,” he noted, adding, “So, Russian statements on such staged operations need to be taken as an attempt to create pretext for a large-scale terrorist attack in Ukraine.”

Eight people dead after strike in Kherson: Ukraine

Eight people were killed in an attack on a hypermarket and a railway station in Kherson, Ukrainian officials said.

Three were killed in an artillery strike as people shopped in the hypermarket, the Ukrainian prosecutor’s office announced.

Local officials stated one person was also killed when the city railway station was bombarded, three energy workers were killed while carrying out repairs in a nearby village and a man was killed in a residential building in another settlement.

“When the enemy can achieve nothing on the battlefield, its strikes at peaceful cities,” Ukrainian military spokesperson Serhii Cherevatyi said.

Ukraine’s offensive has already begun: Wagner boss

The head of Russia’s Wagner Group says Ukraine’s counteroffensive has already begun, with his witnessing heightened activity along the frontline.

In a statement published by his press service on Telegram, Yevgeny Prigozhin said that the “active phase” of the counteroffensive would begin in the coming days.

Ukraine will launch offensive ‘soon’: Zelensky

President Volodymyr Zelensky says Ukraine will launch a counteroffensive against Russian forces soon and that he was sure Kyiv would be supplied with modern warplanes.

Speaking at a news conference in Finland, NATO’s newest member, Zelensky, also said that one of the reasons he came to Helsinki was that Kyiv wanted to become a member of the military alliance.

“I believe that this year will be decisive for us, for Europe, for Ukraine, decisive for victory,” he told reporters during a joint press conference with his Finnish counterpart Sauli Niinisto.

While Ukraine has specifically asked for advanced fighter jets, Niinisto said that due to Finland’s geographical location — with its long border to Russia — it “couldn’t give up” its existing jets before the delivery of new ones, scheduled for 2025 onward.

But Zelensky stated he was “sure we’ll have aircrafts” and pointed out that so far Ukraine has first had to prove itself on the battlefield before getting more advanced military support.

“We will conduct offensive actions, and after that we will receive aircrafts,” he added.

Russia claims Ukraine targeted Putin in an attempted drone attack on Kremlin

Moscow alleges Ukraine flew two drones toward the Kremlin last night in what it claims was an attempt to kill President Vladimir Putin.

The Russian president was not in the building at the time, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said. Ukraine has not commented on the claims.

The Kremlin added the attack was foiled.

“No one was injured as a result of their fall and scattering of fragments,” state media RIA Novosti reported.

The Kremlin Press Service called the drone attack an “attempt on the president’s life” and a “terrorist act.”

“Russia reserves the right to take retaliatory measures where and when it sees fit,” it added.

Zelensky to travel to Berlin on May 13

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is expected to travel to Berlin on May 13, the German newspaper Tagesspiegel report.

According to the report, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz will receive the Ukrainian president with military honours on May 14 before flying to Aachen later in the day to receive the 2023 Charlemagne Prize.

The prize was created in 1950 after the Second World War and is given to those whose exceptional work is performed in the service of European unity.

3 killed and 5 wounded in supermarket attack in Ukrainian city of Kherson

The Ukrainian Ministry of Internal Affairs has announced that three people have lost their lives, and a further five were injured as a result of a Russian missile strike on a supermarket in the city of Kherson.

Writing on Telegram, the Ministry said the rocket hit at 11 a.m. local time (4 a.m. ET) in the “only working hypermarket” in the city.

The injured include employees and shoppers.

Zelensky travels to Finland and will attend a Nordic-Ukrainian Summit

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky will pay an official visit to Finland on Wednesday, Finnish President Sauli Niinisto announced.

In a press release, Niinisto said Zelensky will travel to Helsinki for “official discussions” that will include “Ukraine’s defence struggle and Finland’s support for Ukraine.”

The statement also went on to say that a Nordic-Ukrainian summit will be held between the prime ministers of Sweden, Norway, Finland, Denmark and Iceland.

The summit, Niinisto statement added, would “discuss the situation of Russia’s war of aggression in Ukraine, the Nordic countries’ continued support for Ukraine, the developments in Ukraine’s relationship with EU and NATO and Ukraine’s initiative for a just peace.”

Sergiy Nikoforov, Zelensky’s spokesperson, confirmed on Facebook that the president is traveling to Finland on Wednesday.

Finland ascended to NATO membership in April. The development marked a major shift in the security landscape in northeastern Europe that added some 1,300 kilometers (830 miles) to the alliance’s frontier with Russia.

Grain initiative extension talks to start on Friday in Istanbul: Turkish official

The Deputy Defense Minister of Turkey, Russia and Ukraine will meet in the Turkish capital on May 5 for talks about the extension to the grain deal, which expires on May 18.

Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar, said in a statement on Wednesday, “during the meeting, some issues, especially the grain initiative, will be discussed.

“It is our hope that the grain deal will continue as it is. Because this agreement is very important for regional peace and stability and for countries in need. In this context, we can say that the parties are willing to extend the deadline,” he added.

“Our wish is to extend this initiative without any problems,” he continued.

Russian state media outlet RIA Novosti quoted an unnamed Russian Foreign Ministry official as saying a deal “is yet to be agreed” upon.

Ukraine has not commented on the meeting proposal.

Last month, Russia threatened to scrap the Black Sea grain deal, viewed as critical for solving the world hunger crisis, if the Group of Seven nations bans exports to the country.

Russia launches new wave of drone attacks across Ukraine

Russia on Wednesday launched another wave of drone attacks against multiple regions of Ukraine, including the capital, Ukrainian authorities said.

Ukraine’s Air Force Command said 21 of 26 drones fired by Russia had been destroyed, with no casualties or extensive damage reported yet.

The capital was hit with drones on Wednesday for a third time in six days, according to Serhii Popko, head of the Kyiv city military administration

“The enemy’s tactics also remain usual and unchanged — with the onset of darkness, the terrorist country launched its barrage munitions from different directions,” Popko stated.

Another drone attack set fire to a building in the Dnipropetrovsk region, according to regional military chief Serhiy Lysak. He added the Ukrainian air force had shot down seven drones over Dnipropetrovsk and emergency services were working to determine the impact of the attack.

Three drone strikes hit the Kirovohrad region, setting an oil depot on fire.

Russia arrests seven Ukrainian intelligence agents: State media

Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) says seven people connected with Ukrainian intelligence services have been detained in Crimea, state-owned news agency TASS reported.

In a statement, FSB said attacks against Russian-backed Crimea Governor Sergey Aksyonov and other officials had been thwarted.

“The FSB has broken up the activities of an agent network of Ukrainian military intelligence planning to carry out major sabotage and terrorist attacks in Crimea,” the security service was quoted as saying.

Crimea has come under repeated attacks since Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. Kyiv has repeatedly declared its intention to retake the Crimean Peninsula, which Russia illegally annexed in 2014 to an international outcry.

Fuel depot on fire near crucial Crimea bridge

A fuel storage facility is ablaze near a critical bridge linking Russia’s mainland with Crimea though the cause of the fire is unclear.

The incident comes days after Moscow blamed Ukraine for a drone strike that set fire to an oil depot on Crimea’s Sevastopol city. Flames and black smoke billowed over what appeared to be large tanks emblazoned with red warnings of “Flammable” in videos posted on Russian social media.

“The fire has been classified as the highest rank of difficulty,” Veniamin Kondratyev, governor of the Krasnodar region across the Sea of Azov from Ukraine, said on the Telegram messaging app

No casualties were reported.

Kondratyev added the blaze broke out in the village of Volna. The hamlet is close to the Crimean bridge over the Kerch Strait, a major artery for Russian forces, as it links the mainland to the Crimean peninsula that was annexed in 2014 from Ukraine.

US sending $300 million in new arms aid to Ukraine including air-launched rockets

The United States is sending a $300 military aid package to Ukraine, including, for the first time, short-range air-launched rockets, deepening its involvement in the war in defiance of repeated warnings by Russia.

Two US officials said on Tuesday the package includes Hydra 70 rockets, which are unguided projectiles fired from aircraft, Reuters reported.

It also includes artillery rounds, 155-mm Howitzer cannons, anti-tank missiles and mortars as Ukrainian officials say they are planning a counteroffensive.

The Pentagon has also sent at least 20 High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS) to Ukraine. HIMARS systems, which are made by Lockheed Martin, are intended to be a “core component of Ukraine’s fighting force in the future,” according to a senior US defense official told reporters.

The funds for the new military shipment to Ukraine were provided once more by using the Presidential Drawdown Authority, or PDA, by which the President of the United States can legally authorize the shipment of military equipment and services from US stocks without gaining congressional approval in response to an emergency.

The package brings the total amount of US military aid to about $36 billion dollars.

China should push Russia to end war in Ukraine: US envoy

The United States wants to see China press Russia to end its war in Ukraine, US Ambassador to China Nicholas Burns stated Tuesday.

“What we need to see from China is to push Russia to withdraw its troops and so that Ukraine can have all of its territory back and can be fully sovereign again in all aspects of that word,” Burns said at an event at the foreign affairs think tank Stimson Center, which he attended virtually.

“It’d be helpful if China pushed Russia to cease bombing of Ukrainian schools, and Ukrainian hospitals, and Ukrainian apartment buildings. We’ve seen a tremendous loss of life just in the last month or two under this vicious Russian aerial assault and drone attacks on Ukrainian civilians,” he continued, adding, “So I think that’s what we would like and I’m sure that’s what the European countries would like, that’s what Ukraine wants from China.”

Burns said the conversation between Chinese President Xi Jinping and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky was “a good first step,” but it’s unclear if any action will follow it.

“We would like to see China be much more tough-minded in its advice to the Russians. We’d like to see action to end the war as quickly as possible in terms, of course, that the Ukrainian government can accept,” he noted.

Burns added that the US has been watching the issue of China potentially providing lethal aid to Russia “very carefully now for many months.”

“We have not seen evidence that the Chinese are doing that, but we continue to watch it,” he continued.

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.

Russian commissioner for children’s rights, wanted by ICC, says she is “not ashamed of anything”

A senior Russian official wanted by the International Criminal Court said that she is “not ashamed of anything” she has done in an alleged scheme to illegally deport Ukrainian children to Russia in an interview with Vice News.

Maria Lvova-Belova, the Russian commissioner for children’s rights, is being sought — along with Russian President Vladimir Putin — for the alleged “unlawful deportation and transfer of children” from occupied areas of Ukraine to Russia. An ICC arrest warrant for Putin and Lvova-Belova was issued in March.

During the interview, when asked if she views herself as a war criminal, she laughed and said, “It’s funny. I am a mother. That says it all. A war criminal? What are you talking about?”

According to American and European governments and independent investigators, Lvova-Belova has overseen an organized effort to forcibly deport Ukrainian children to Russia. Those reports allege many of those minors undergo political reeducation and are given to Russian families for adoption.

Lvova-Belova stated she herself is fostering a 16-year-old Ukrainian boy named Philip, who is from Mariupol.

“When it came to Philip, my heart called me to him. … We talked to him and my heart fluttered, and I realized that he was my child,” she added, claiming that despite some adapting, “We love each other madly. That is a fact.”

Lvova-Belova claimed that under Geneva conventions, children can be moved “from a zone that threatens their lives.” When challenged that the conventions say they should be moved to third countries, she said the self-declared Donetsk People’s Republic and Luhansk People’s Republic are evidence of third countries.

They “were not part of Ukraine; they were recognized as independent republics by our country,” she noted.

The separatist republics are now claimed by Moscow to be part of Russian territory, despite broad international condemnation of the annexation attempt.

Lvova-Belova claimed that there are no evacuation corridors for adults and children in Bakhmut, the eastern city that has been besieged for months by Russian forces.

“My staff and I just recently evacuated families with children from there. We were saving children. We took them to places where they can survive and be safe,” she claimed.

A number of international news organizations have curtailed their work inside the Russian Federation following the arrest of Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich in late March on what the US government, the WSJ and other media outlets have condemned as bogus espionage charges. Vice News said in the article that their journalists observed Lvova-Belova’s team filming them with mobile phones in the days preceding the interview.

Kremlin says it is not aware of Pope’s peace mission for Ukraine

The Kremlin said it knew nothing about a Vatican peace mission for Ukraine.

Pope Francis stated on Sunday that the Vatican was involved in discreet efforts to try to end the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, and that it was also ready to help repatriate Ukrainian children taken to Russia or Russian-occupied land.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Tuesday that Moscow had no information about the initiative.

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