Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Live Update: Russia’s “Special Operation” in Ukraine; Day 444

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:

Zelensky arrives in Rome for meetings with Italian PM and Pope Francis

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has arrived in Rome on Saturday, where he is expected to meet with his Italian counterpart, Italy’s PM and Pope Francis, his Chief of Staff Andriy Yermak said on Telegram.

“Together with President Volodymyr Zelensky and his team, we are now in Rome,” Yermak said.

Zelensky also posted on Telegram on Saturday, “Rome. Meetings with Italian President Sergio Mattarella, Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, and Pope Francis. An important visit for Ukraine’s victory.”

Zelensky is expected to meet with Italian President Sergio Mattarella, as well as Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni and Pope Francis on Saturday.

Germany to supply Ukraine with aid package worth nearly $3 billion

Germany announced on Saturday that it would supply Ukraine with an aid package worth nearly $3 billion (2.7 million euros) to strengthen the country’s defense.

It marks the largest German military aid package to Ukraine since the start of the war.

The German Ministry of Defence said in a statement that the package may include a variety of military hardware, such as 20 Marder armoured personnel carriers, 30 Leopard tanks, 4 IRIS-T-SLM firing units, over 200 reconnaissance drones and ammunition.

“With this valuable contribution of urgently needed military material, we are once again showing that Germany is serious about its support,” Germany’s Defense Minister Boris Pistorius was quoted saying in the statement.

“We all wish for a speedy end to this terrible war waged by Russia against the Ukrainian people, which is contrary to international law. Unfortunately, this is not yet in sight. Germany will therefore provide all the help it can – as long as it takes,” Pistorius added.

Ukraine President’s Chief of Staff, Andriy Yermak, confirmed Germany’s support on Saturday via his Telegram account while thanking them for their aid.

“We thank our allies. Working more,” Yermak stated.

Germany’s announcement comes after the US on Tuesday announced a $1.2 billion aid package to Ukraine intended to “bolster its air defenses” and “sustain its artillery ammunition needs,” with Ukraine’s counteroffensive against Russian forces looming.

Germany’s military support for Ukraine has evolved over time. The country initially resisted calls to provide weaponry to Kyiv, agreeing only to provide humanitarian help and medical equipment. That approach was in line with Germany’s decades-long policy of not supplying lethal weapons to crisis zone.

In a major policy U-turn earlier this year, Berlin announced it would provide Kyiv with Leopard 2 battle tanks. Then in April, Berlin also committed to sending Gepard anti-aircraft systems.

G7 to counter Russia’s attempts to evade sanctions, support Ukraine “as long as it takes”

G7 countries intend to counter any attempts by Russia to evade sanctions imposed over the situation around Ukraine, as well as to support Ukraine as long as it is necessary, according to a joint statement adopted on Saturday following the meeting of member states’ finance ministers and central bank governors in the Japanese city of Niigata.

“We remain committed to countering any attempts to evade and undermine our sanction measures. <…> Going forward, we will continue to strengthen coordination in monitoring cross-border transactions between Russia and other countries, take further action directed at the Russian financial sector as necessary, and closely monitor the effectiveness of the price caps on Russian crude oil and petroleum products to ensure the measure delivers on its objectives, and take any necessary and appropriate enforcement actions required,” the statement reads.

“We reiterate our unwavering support for Ukraine for as long as it takes,” according to the statement.

G7 nations called on other countries to join measures against Russia and efforts to bolster their enforcement, adding that they will also ensure Russia’s sovereign assets in their jurisdictions remain immobilized until the Ukrainian conflict is resolved.

Zelensky introduces new package of sanctions against Russian companies, including airlines

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky imposed new sanctions against Russian enterprises on Friday, he wrote in his Telegram channel.

“Today brings another round of sanctions. With my decree, I put restrictive measures on the property of Russian companies in Ukraine, as well as the property of Ukrainian economic entities affiliated with them,” he wrote.

At the same time, he underlined that the package of sanctions included companies linked to Ukrainian opposition figure Viktor Medvedchuk as well as other sanctioned individuals – “founders, managers, and beneficiaries of pro-Russian companies with significant assets in Ukraine.”

According to Zelensky’s decree, which was published on the official website, sanctions were imposed for a term of ten years on 212 legal entities and 37 individuals – nationals of the Russian Federation, Ukraine, the United Kingdom, Germany, Cyprus, and Latvia.

Russian forces trying to regain lost ground in Bakhmut: Ukrainian officer

Battles are continuing in and around Bakhmut, the Ukrainian military stated Friday, with Russian forces apparently trying to regain some of the ground they lost this week.

“The enemy is trying to regain the positions lost during our assault,” Maksym Zhorin, a Ukrainian officer in Bakhmut, said in a video.

“Day and night, we have to consolidate and hold new positions in intense fighting,” Zhorin continued, adding, “There is still a very long way to go to victory.”

As for ground assaults, the military reported 36 Russian attacks concentrated on areas of the front lines in the Donetsk region. The attacks were repelled, and there is little evidence of any ground changing hands outside of Bakhmut, it announced.

“Incessant fighting continues in the town of Bakhmut,” the General Staff said, adding, “In addition, during the day, the enemy conducted unsuccessful offensive actions in the direction of Orikhovo-Vasylivka, Hryhorivka and Stupochki.”

The General Staff did not provide details on reports that Russia withdrew from some positions north of Bakhmut, as reported by Yevgeny Prigozhin, the head of the Wagner mercenary group.

Social media video appeared to show Russian soldiers retreating in the face of Ukrainian shelling in the area, some 5 kilometers north of the city.

Prigozhin stated later on Friday that his fighters had taken some ground in the city itself, where most Wagner fighters now appear to be concentrated.

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