Saturday, May 18, 2024

Russia’s “Special Operation” in Ukraine; Day 439: Russia launches new wave of air attacks on Ukraine

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:

‘Russia effectively stops Black Sea grain deal’: Ukraine reconstruction ministry

Ukraine’s reconstruction ministry says that Russia has effectively stopped the Black Sea grain deal by refusing to register incoming vessels and carry out their inspections.

“This approach contradicts the terms of the current agreement,” the ministry said in a statement.

The Black Sea grain deal signed by Russia and Ukraine last July to allow Ukraine to resume grain exports from its Black Sea ports is due to expire on May 18.

Russia says it will not renew the deal unless its agricultural demands are met.

European Commission proposes 11th round of sanctions against Russia

The European Commission proposes a new round of sanctions against Russia over its actions in Ukraine.

European Commission spokesperson Eric Mamer told reporters in Brussels that the package — the eleventh round from the bloc — will focus on ensuring sanctions are implemented, are effective and cannot be evaded.

While the 27-member bloc is yet to adopt the measures, Andriy Yermak, the Ukrainian president’s chief of staff, welcomed the news.

“We expect surprises for the propagandists of the Russians, as well as their economy,” he said in a statement on Telegram.

Ukraine says it shot down 35 Russian drones launched over Kyiv

Ukraine says its air defence systems shot down 35 Russian Iranian-made Shahed drones that Russia launched in overnight attacks over Kyiv.

Kyiv’s Mayor Vitali Klitschko stated although the drones over the city have been destroyed, at least five people were injured.

He added that Russia had fired 60 Iranian-made kamikaze drones across the country as a part of its overnight offensive.

At least one killed in missile strikes on Odesa: Ukrainian officials

At least one person was killed and three were injured in missile strikes on the southern port city of Odesa on Monday, according to the spokesman for the head of the regional military administration.

“A guard at the warehouse where an enemy missile hit was killed. His body was found under the rubble,” the spokesperson wrote on Telegram.

Russia fired eight long-range missiles at the city overnight Sunday, Ukraine’s air force announced in a statement.

“Around midnight, the Russian occupiers attacked Odesa Oblast with Tu-22M3 long-range bombers. A total of eight missiles were launched from the area of Cape Tarkhankut (occupied Crimea),” the air force said, adding: “Some of the missiles did not reach their targets.”

Russian missile attacks were also recorded in the Kyiv, Kharkiv, Kherson and Mykolaiv regions, according to Ukraine’s military.

“61 air strikes and 52 enemy attacks from MLRS were documented at our troop positions and populated areas,” the Ukrainian military announced in a statement Monday.

‘Russia strongly condemns Kyiv’s readiness to kill Russians’: Kremlin

Kremlin spokesperson Dimitry Peskov says Moscow strongly condemns Kyiv’s statements about its readiness to kill Russians.

“The Russian special services will do everything they must,” Peskov stated, according to Russian state media reports.

He added that Ukraine’s statements “confirm the correctness of Putin’s decision to launch a special military operation”.

He made the comments a day ahead of Victory Day celebrations in Moscow as Ukraine is preparing to launch a counteroffensive in the coming weeks, seeking to regain its territories occupied by Russia.

Russia targetting Central Asian migrants to serve in war: UK defence ministry

Russian military recruiters are targetting migrants from Central Asia to serve in the war against Ukraine according to UK’s defence ministry.

“Recruiters have visited mosques and immigration offices to recruit, the ministry said in a tweet and added that “staff who speak Tajik and Uzbek, routinely try to recruit migrants.”

Russian-controlled city in Zaporizhzhia “under fire”: Russian official

The Russian-controlled city of Polohy, in the Zaporizhzhia region, is under fire by Ukrainian forces, a pro-Moscow official said on Monday.

“Polohy is under the fire of the Ukrainian Armed Forces,” Vladimir Rogoc, a member of the Russian-installed main council of the military-civilian administration of the Zaporizhzhia region, stated.

“According to preliminary information, there are injured [people], as well as damage and destruction of civilian infrastructure,” he claimed.

Rogov added authorities had already been evacuating civilians from frontline areas.

“Due to the increased shelling of frontline areas of Zaporizhzhia region, a decision was made to temporarily relocate residents to safe areas. Continued attacks by the AFU (Armed Forces of Ukraine) are evidence that this decision was right,” he continued.

More than 1,600 people, including 660 children, have been evacuated from Russian-occupied towns and cities near the front lines in Zaporizhzhia, according to Yevgeniy Balitskiy, the Russia-appointed acting head of the region.

Balitskiy claimed Sunday that the evacuees “have everything they need: food, a place to sleep, constant contact and consultation with specialists.”

Russia controls much of the Zaporizhzhia region and it could be a target for Ukraine should it launch its heavily anticipated counteroffensive.

Ukraine issues air raid alert across whole country

Air raid alerts have been issued across the whole of Ukraine according to a Reuters report.

Ukrainian military bloggers say the air alerts could have been triggered by a Russian warplane armed with Moscow’s Kinzhal hypersonic weapons taking off.

Evacuations from Zaporizhzhia renew concerns for nuclear power plant safety

The United Nations’ nuclear watchdog has raised concerns as to the safety of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, describing it as “increasingly unpredictable,” after Moscow ordered the evacuation of residents from Russian-occupied areas close to the facility.

The Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant, Europe’s largest, is held by Russian forces but mostly operated by a Ukrainian workforce.

The town of Enerhodar was among 18 front-line settlements whose residents were evacuated over the weekend. Most of the plant’s staff live in the town, the International Atomic Energy Agency director general Rafael Mariano Grossi said in a statement.

Grossi added he was deeply concerned about the “increasingly tense, stressful, and challenging conditions” for personnel and their families and about “the very real nuclear safety and security risks facing the plant.”

“We must act now to prevent the threat of a severe nuclear accident and its associated consequences for the population and the environment,” Grossi warned.

The evacuation of Enerhodar comes amid rumors of an anticipated Ukrainian counteroffensive, with the southern region likely to be a major target as Kyiv seeks to reclaim territories taken by Moscow.

The site director Yuri Chernichuk said operating staff are not being evacuated and “are doing everything necessary to ensure nuclear safety and security at the plant.”

Chernichuk stated the plant’s six reactors are all in shutdown mode and its equipment is being maintained, “in accordance with all necessary nuclear safety and security regulations,” according to Grossi.

Ukraine relies heavily on nuclear power. Should Russia keep the Zaporizhzhia plant – which it took control of in March last year – Ukraine would lose about 20% of its domestic electricity generating capacity. Analysts have said Russia would want to capture the plant undamaged, with hopes of serving its own electricity market.

The plant has frequently been disconnected from Ukraine’s power grid due to intense Russian shelling in the area, repeatedly raising fears across Europe of a nuclear accident, though experts say another Chernobyl-sized disaster remains unlikely.

Ukraine air force strikes three Russian ammunition depots

Ukraine’s air force has carried out eight strikes on areas where Russia’s personnel and military equipment were concentrated according to Ukraine’s Defense Military Media Centre.

A strike on Moscow’s anti-aircraft missile system was also carried out by Kyiv.

“Units of rocket forces and artillery hit two control points, two areas of concentration of weapons and military equipment of the occupiers, as well as three enemy ammunition depots,” the military media centre said in a post on Telegram.

China will safeguard its interests over EU sanctions

China’s Foreign Ministry has announced Beijing opposes any measure that weaponises China-Russia relations as a pretext for the damage of trade cooperation.

In response to the European Union’s proposed sanctions on Chinese companies over accusations of them aiding Russia’s war machine, ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said if these sanctions come into force, China will take firm action to safeguard its interests.

Wagner advances in Bakhmut: Group’s founder

The units of the Wagner private military company have advanced in Bakhmut and Ukrainian troops still control 2.37 square kilometers, Yevgeny Prigozhin, the founder of the Wagner PMC, claimed.

“Today, the advance by the Wagner PMC units amounted up to 280 meters in various directions. We’ve advanced by 53,000 meters. The enemy still controls 2.37 square kilometers,” Prigozhin’s press service quoted him as saying on its Telegram channel.

“We are advancing, expecting ammunition,” he added.

Zelensky compares Russia to Nazi Germany, proposes moving Victory Day

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky compared Russia to Nazi Germany as he proposed moving World War II Victory Day celebrations a day earlier to May 8 in a bill presented to lawmakers in Kyiv.

Like Russia, Ukraine traditionally commemorates victory over the Nazis on May 9, but that date has become increasingly associated with a parade in Moscow, used by the Kremlin to flex its military might.

“It is on May 8 that most nations of the world remember the greatness of the victory over the Nazis,” Zelensky said Monday.

“We will not allow the joint victory of the nations of the anti-Hitler coalition to be appropriated and we will not allow lies as if the victory could have taken place without the participation of any country or nation,” he added.

Comparing Russia’s invasion of Ukraine to Hitler’s expansionist goals, Zelensky stated the goal of both regimes was the same — “enslavement or destruction.”

“Unfortunately, evil has returned,” he continued, adding, “Like back then evil rushed to our cities and villages, so it is doing now, like back then it killed our people, so it is doing it now.”

Over 1,600 residents evacuated from Zaporizhzhia: Russia-backed official

More than 1,600 people have been evacuated from Zaporizhzhia, the Ukrainian region’s Russia-backed administration said Monday.

Russia controls much of Zaporizhzhia and the evacuations come amid rumors of an anticipated Ukrainian counteroffensive, with the southern region likely to be a major target as Kyiv seeks to push back Moscow’s invasion.

Among the evacuees were 660 minors and 230 psychiatric patients, acting Gov. Yevgeny Balitsky stated.

The Russia-backed official has announced the evacuations, which began on Friday, were a “necessary measure” due to “intensified shelling of settlements” close to the front line.

Ukrainian officials have accused Russia of using evacuations to forcibly deport Ukrainians.

Russia launches air attacks on Ukraine ahead of key holiday

Russia has launched dozens of missiles and drones towards Kyiv and other Ukrainian cities, injuring several people, amid growing concern about safety at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, Europe’s biggest.

Ukraine’s top military command said it destroyed all 35 drones that were launched during the night, adding that Russia had also launched dozens of missiles.

“Unfortunately, there are dead and wounded civilians, high-rise buildings, private homes and other civilian infrastructure were damaged,” the General Staff of Ukraine’s Armed Forces announced in its daily update.

The latest air assault comes as Moscow prepares to celebrate Victory Day, a major Russian holiday that marks the anniversary of its defeat of Nazi Germany in World War II and usually includes a military parade through Red Square.

At least five people were injured due to the air attacks on the capital, according to Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko, while Russian missiles left an Odesa warehouse packed with food on fire.

Blasts were reported in several other Ukrainian regions.

Russia also intensified shelling of ruined Bakhmut, according to Ukraine’s top general in charge of the city’s defence, as it hopes to lock in gains ahead of the May 9 holiday. Once known as a salt-mining town, Bakhmut is seen by the Russians as a key target in order to secure its eastern advance.

Witnesses told the Reuters news agency that they had heard numerous explosions in Kyiv as local officials said air defence systems were repelling the attacks.

Three people were injured in explosions in Kyiv’s Solomyanskyi district, and two others were injured when drone wreckage fell onto the Sviatoshyn district, both west of the capital’s centre, Mayor Vitali Klitschko said on his Telegram messaging channel.

Kyiv’s military administration announced that in the city’s central Shevchenkivskyi district, drone debris seemed to have hit a two-storey building, causing damage, and had also fallen onto a runway of the Zhuliany airport, one of the two passenger airports of the Ukrainian capital.

Serhiy Bratchuk, a spokesperson for the Odesa military administration, posted on his Telegram channel photos of a large structure fully engulfed in flames in what he stated was a Russian attack on a warehouse, among others.

After air raid alerts blared for hours over roughly two-thirds of Ukraine, there were also media reports of sounds of explosions in the southern region of Kherson and in the Zaporizhia region in the southeast, where the Zaporizhzhia nuclear complex is located.

Russia is trying to wear down Ukraine’s air defenses: Military spokesperson

Russian forces are trying to chip away at Ukraine’s air defense system, a spokesperson for the Ukrainian military stated in an interview Sunday.

“They (Russian forces) are testing and trying to exhaust our air defense system. They are trying to find a way around it. And they are also expanding their tactics, because they do not have a stable stock of the means that they can operate with,” said Natalia Humeniuk, Ukraine’s Operational Command South spokesperson.

Russians are trying “to test and find out where the air defense systems are located,” according to Humeniuk.

The spokesperson also commented on Russian authorities recently evacuating civilians from the Zaporizhzhia region, calling it “an imitation of care for the local residents.”

This is a standard practice that was used by Russians before, she added.

“They are trying to evacuate the people to the places where they set up their own defense lines and where they are setting their units in order to use local civilians as a cover,” Humeniuk claimed.

Analysts suspect the southern region could be a key target of Ukraine’s anticipated counteroffensive.

Russian shelling kills emergency workers in Kherson

Ukraine’s prosecutor general has announced six members of Ukraine’s State Emergency Service have been killed during Russian shelling in the southern region of Kherson.

The office said in a Facebook post that the Russian military dropped shells on a populated area from a drone, killing six people and injuring two.

It added that criminal proceedings were opened to investigate whether the incident is in violation of the laws of war and constitutes “intentional murder”.

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