Saturday, May 18, 2024

Live Update: Russia’s “Special Operation” in Ukraine; Day 452

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 says would like Japan and South Korea to send lethal weapons

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said he would like Japan and South Korea to provide lethal weapons to Ukraine but he understands “there are legislative and constitutional difficulties”.

He stated regarding diplomatic pressure on Russia and certain formats of diplomatic resolution of the war in Ukraine “the key is respect for the UN Charter and international law”.

“Russia has no chance for any diplomatic paths as long as its troops are on our territory in violation of our territorial integrity and sovereignty,” he told a news conference at the G7 summit in Japan.

“We all understand that no one will have anything to do with Russia as long as its troops are on the territory of Ukraine,” he added.

Zelensky made the comments as part of a series of in-person appeals to fellow leaders gathered in Japan to remain united against Russian aggression.

Hiroshima reminds me of Bakhmut: Zelensky tells G7

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said the pictures of ruined Hiroshima he saw on his visit to the Japanese city “really remind” him of the embattled eastern Ukrainian city of Bakhmut, and other similar settlements or towns.

“Just the same, nothing alive left, all of the buildings have been ruined,” Zelensky stated at a news conference.

The city, which Ukraine denies Russia controls, has seen some of the most brutal fighting of the conflict.

Zelensky added what he has seen in Hiroshima, Japan, is similar to “the ruins of [Ukrainian] cities which have been burned to the ground by Russian bombs and artillery.”

Speaking during a news conference at the Group of Seven (G7) summit on Sunday, the president said Hiroshima is now a rebuilt city and Ukrainians “dream of rebuilding all our cities that are now in ruins, and every village where not a single house is left intact after Russian strikes.”

“We dream of returning our territories, just as we have regained our northern territories which were occupied by Russia. We must regain our eastern and southern territories of Ukraine,” he continued.

“We dream of returning our people who are now in Russian captivity. These are prisoners of war and civilians, deported adults and also abducted children. We dream of winning, we dream of peace after our victory,” Zelensky added.

“Our soldiers are in Bakhmut”: Zelensky

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has again denied that Bakhmut is occupied by Russia, saying Ukrainian soldiers remain in the city.

“We are keeping on, we are fighting,” Zelensky said at a news conference at the G7 in Japan.

“I clearly understand what is happening in Bakhmut. I can’t share the tactics of the military, but a country even bigger than ours cannot defeat us. A little time will pass and we will be winning. Today our soldiers are in Bakhmut. I will not share the locations,” Zelensky continued.

“Bakhmut is not occupied by Russian Federation as of today. There are no two or three interpretations of those words,” he added.

There are conflicting reports about who controls Bakhmut.

Zelensky’s comments come after Russia’s Wagner mercenary group on Saturday claimed to have finally taken the Ukrainian city of Bakhmut, the scene of bitter fighting for months.

Biden says Putin ‘will not break our resolve’ on Ukraine

Russia “will not break” the resolve of Ukraine’s allies, US President Joe Biden said after talks with Volodymyr Zelensky on the sidelines of the G7 summit in Hiroshima.

The US president said he had assured his Ukrainian counterpart that Washington and other backers of Kyiv “will not waver, Vladimir Putin will not break our resolve as he thought he could”.

Ukraine has secured Washington’s approval for allies to supply US-made fighter jets, including F-16s.

US officials were initially reluctant, citing the risk of further escalating the conflict.

However, Biden stated he received a “flat assurance from Zelensky that they will not use it to go on and move onto Russian geographic territory”.

Ukrainian forces continue to hold areas of Bakhmut: Armed Forces spokesperson

Ukraine’s Armed Forces (AFU) announced Sunday it continues to hold a number of buildings in the eastern Ukrainian city of Bakhmut, after Russia’s Wagner group claimed to have taken the city Saturday.

“We have strong holds in the southwestern part of the city. Our units are in the city. We continue efforts to counterattack the enemy,” Serhii Cherevatyi, spokesperson for the eastern grouping of the Ukrainian Armed Forces told CNN.

Ukraine’s Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar also reiterated Sunday that Ukrainian forces were holding the defense, posting on Telegram that the “enemy failed to encircle and they lost some of the dominant heights around the city.”

She said Ukrainian forces were still making advances in the suburbs around the city, which “makes it very difficult for the enemy to remain in Bakhmut.”

“Our defenders retain control over industrial and infrastructure facilities and the private sector of Bakhmut in the ‘Airplane’ district,” Maliar added.

Ukraine says its troops have ‘semi-circled’ Bakhmut

Ukrainian forces have partly encircled the besieged eastern city of Bakhmut along the flanks and still maintain control of a private sector in the city, Deputy Defence Minister Hanna Maliar said.

She made the remarks on the Telegram messaging app shortly after President Putin said the battle had ended with a Russian victory.

“The advance of our troops in the suburbs on the flanks, which is still ongoing, makes it very difficult for the enemy to be in Bakhmut. Our troops have semi-encircled the city,” Maliar stated.

Japan: G7 sent ‘strong message’ in support of Ukraine at summit

The meeting of G7 leaders in Hiroshima has resulted in “unwavering unity” in supporting Ukraine to fend off the Russian war, according to the host country Japan.

The attendance of President Zelenskyy in person at the G7 meeting helped send “a strong message” to the world, Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said after the end of the three-day summit.

“I think this was of very great importance,” he continued.

Unilateral attempts to change the status quo – “no matter where in the world” – by force would not be accepted by the G7, Kishida went on to say.

Threats to use nuclear weapons “should not be accepted,” Kishida added, referring to Russian indications over the past months.

Zelensky says world needs ‘clear global leadership of democracy’ as he attends G7 summit in person

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called for a “clear global leadership of democracy” in remarks delivered in person at a session of the G7 summit in Japan on Sunday, according to a readout from the president’s office.

Zelensky emphasized the importance of having air defense systems to protect all cities of Ukraine, saying that “we decide – not our enemy – what the sky security will be like.”

“Together we have proven that the question is not how many missiles our common enemy has, but how many air defense systems we have,” Zelensky said.

Zelensky also thanked leaders who helped Ukraine with air defense and said he was grateful for the decision to train Ukrainian pilots on modern fighter aircrafts.

This week US President Joe Biden gave his backing for Ukrainian pilots to be trained to fly F-16s, reversing his previous position.

“When our pilots know the F-16 and when these aircraft appear in our skies, it will matter not only for Ukraine,” Zelensky continued, adding, “This will be a historic moment for the entire security architecture in Europe and the world.”

Zelensky stated on Saturday that his government is coordinating on weapons, air defense and fighter jets with its allies in response to Russia’s war.

The G7 are seeking common ground on a host of global issues, including how to confront Beijing’s growing military and economic assertiveness as well as the war raging in Europe.

G7 member countries, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States, include the largest backers of Ukraine’s defense.

Zelensky denies the fall of Bakhmut: Spokesperson

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky denies claims that the city of Bakhmut has fallen to Russian forces, his spokesperson Sergiy Nykyforov said Sunday.

“I think no,” Zelensky told reporters, when asked both whether he thinks the city is still in Kyiv’s control and about claims Russia captured the city.

His office later clarified that the president was referring to Russian claims to have taken the city.

“The president has denied Bakhmut has been taken over,” Nykyforov stated.

“There is nothing. They destroyed everything. There are no buildings. It’s a pity, it’s a tragedy, but for today Bakhmut is only in our hearts,” Zelensky said, speaking alongside US President Joe Biden in Hiroshima ahead of a one-on-one meeting.

Zelensky thanked the Ukrainian “defenders” of Bakhmut, saying “we appreciate them for their great job.”

Zelensky appears to confirm Bakhmut loss, says ‘nothing left’

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky appeared Sunday to confirm the loss of Bakhmut to the Russians, adding there was “nothing left” of the city.

Asked if Ukrainian forces were holding on or if Russia had captured the city, Zelensky was not entirely clear, but stated “you have to understand there is nothing” there.

“For today, Bakhmut is only in our hearts,” he added.

Kyiv’s military has said in its daily update Saturday Ukrainian troops are engaged in heavy fighting with Russian forces in and around the long-contested city of Bakhmut in eastern Ukraine.

“Heavy fighting for the city of Bakhmut continues. In addition, during the day, the enemy conducted unsuccessful offensive actions in the direction of Bila Hora,” it said, referring to a village to the southwest of Bakhmut. Ukrainian forces have succeeded in regaining small pockets of territory there in the last fortnight.

Earlier Saturday, the chief of the Russian private military group Wagner, Yevgeny Prigozhin, claimed his forces have taken complete control of Bakhmut after months of brutal fighting.

Biden says entire G7 has “Ukraine’s back” as he announces new aid package during meeting in Japan

US President Joe Biden announced a new security assistance package to Ukraine as he met with the country’s President Volodymyr Zelensky in Japan on Sunday.

It was their first face-to-face meeting since Biden visited Kyiv in February, and came amid Zelensky’s historic visit to the G7 summit in Japan.

“The United States continues to do all we can to strengthen Ukraine’s ability to defend itself,” Biden said, citing his recent decision to allow F16 fighter jets to go to Ukraine and to train Ukrainian pilots on the aircraft in the United States.

Biden stated new sanctions on Russia would “ensure that we keep pressure on Putin to hold his backers accountable.”

The new security assistance package, which a senior US administration official said earlier would total $375 million, would include ammunition, artillery and vehicles, Biden added.

He voiced support for a “just peace” in Ukraine and said the country’s territorial integrity and sovereignty was “non-negotiable.”

“What you’ve achieved is a matter for the entire world and we are in awe of what you’ve done so far,” Biden said, adding, “Together with the entire G7, we have Ukraine’s back and I promise we’re not going anywhere.”

Biden recounted hearing air raid sirens blaring while the two men were walking through the Ukrainian capital during Biden’s visit earlier this year.

“We kept walking. You don’t care about the sirens. I don’t care about the sirens,” Biden continued.

“We are all in it together”: Zelensky

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Sunday he had presented Ukraine’s 10-point peace formula “to the world,” as he met world leaders at the G7 summit in Hiroshima, Japan.

“As long as invaders remain on our land, no one will sit down at the negotiating table with Russia,” Zelensky wrote on Twitter, adding that “the world has enough power to force Russia to restore peace step by step.”

“Our world is vast, but we are all in it together,” Zelensky continued, stating, “From Japan to the Arab countries, from Europe to Latin America, we find support for our formula. And we continue this work,” he said.

“Ukraine’s security is our security”: Sunak

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has underscored his country’s support for Ukraine’s defense against Russia, saying “Ukraine’s security is our security.”

The United Kingdom will begin training Ukrainian pilots on US-made F-16 fighter jets “this summer” to “support Ukraine’s air force with what it needs for the future,” Sunak said in remarks delivered Sunday in Hiroshima, Japan.

Sunak welcomed the “very tangible progress on providing further support,” made at the G7, most notably US President Joe Biden’s support for an “international coalition” of countries to provide the advanced fighter jets to Ukraine.

“Ukraine must not only win the war but win a just and lasting peace,” Sunak added.

Sunak lauded Volodymyr Zelensky’s presence at the G7 in Hiroshima as a “very powerful moment.” The pair held a bilateral meeting Saturday.

“To see President Zelensky standing shoulder to shoulder with his G7 allies I think sends a message to Russia and the world, that we are united behind President Zelensky and his people and will continue to support him for as long as it takes,” Sunak stated.

F-16 pilot training a message to Russia: Scholz

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has said that potential allied training programmes for Ukrainian pilots on F-16 fighter jets were a message to Russia not to expect to succeed in its invasion of Ukraine — even in a prolonged conflict.

Kyiv has not won commitments for delivery of the planes, but President Joe Biden and senior US officials told G7 leaders on Friday that Washington supports joint allied training programmes for Ukrainian pilots on F-16s.

The issue of Ukraine acquiring and using the advanced fighter jets is a delicate challenge for the G7, which has gradually stepped up its support for Kyiv in the 15-month-old war but is wary of provoking Moscow too far.

“The training of the pilots is a longer project,” Scholz told reporters before leaving the G7 summit on Sunday.

“The US has not finally decided what stands at the end. The project has a message for Russia: Russia cannot count on winning if it bets on a long war,” he added.

G7 is an opportunity to convince Global South over Ukraine: Macron

French President Emmanuel Macron has raised hope that the G7 summit may convince developing countries such as India and Brazil to take a stronger stance on Russia’s war in Ukraine.

Macron earlier said the surprise attendance of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in Hiroshima could be a “game changer”. India and Brazil have been reluctant to join the pressure campaign against Moscow.

“This war isn’t just European,” Macron stated, adding, “It’s the opportunity to discuss, exchange and convince partners of this enlarged G7 … India, Brazil, Indonesia and several other countries from the south, who have sometimes not exchanged as much with Ukraine.”

He said Zelenskyy would explain the situation on the ground while the G7 would stress the fundamentals of the international order and the importance of keeping to the United Nations charter.

“This allows Zelenskyy to express himself to powers of the world who at times are exposed to just one discourse. And I say that just a few weeks before a BRICS summit,” Macron added, referring to the grouping of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.

Battles for Bakhmut ‘continue’: Ukraine’s armed forces

The Armed Forces of Ukraine (AFU) announced Sunday they have not conceded the eastern Ukrainian city of Bakhmut.

“Battles for the city of Bakhmut continue,” the AFU said in its daily operational update.”

The chief of the Russian private military group Wagner, Yevgeny Prigozhin, claimed Saturday that his forces had taken complete control of Bakhmut after months of brutal fighting.

Putin congratulates Wagner mercenaries, Russian armed forces amid claims they have taken Bakhmut

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Saturday congratulated Wagner mercenaries and Russia’s armed forces after they claimed to have taken control of the eastern Ukrainian city of Bakhmut.

The Kremlin said: “Vladimir Putin congratulates the Wagner assault detachments, as well as all units of the Russian Armed Forces, which confirmed the presence and closure of the flanks, on the completion of the operation to liberate Artemovsk [the Soviet-Russian name for Bakhmut],” the Russian state news agency TASS said, citing the Kremlin.

“All distinguished fighters will be granted state awards,” the Kremlin added.

Russian defense ministry declares victory in Bakhmut, while Ukraine insists it’s still fighting for city

Russia’s Ministry of Defense claimed Saturday that it has seized the eastern Ukrainian city of Bakhmut, echoing claims from the Wagner mercenary group that officials in Ukraine have so far disputed.

Calling the city by it’s Soviet-Russian name, the ministry said: “As a result of offensive actions by Wagner assault units, supported by artillery and aviation of the Yug Group of Forces, the liberation of Artyomovsk has been completed.”

Wagner’s chief claimed his troops had completely captured the city earlier Saturday, while Ukraine’s deputy defense minister insisted fighting continued, with Kyiv’s forces holding on to the city’s westernmost edge.

In recent reports from the front, Ukraine’s military had focused on progress made in areas surrounding the city, while Wagner forces had said they were consolidating territory closer to the city center.

Zelensky says Ukraine is coordinating on weapons, air defense and fighter jets with allies after G7 talks

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Saturday that his government is preparing “new joint steps” with its allies in response to Russia’s war.

“We are coordinating our positions with our partners and preparing new joint steps. Defense: weapons, air defense, fighter jets. We engage as many countries and leaders as possible for the sake of Ukraine. The peace formula. Long-term programs to support Ukraine. Finance and economy,” he said in his daily video speech after holding meetings with several leaders on the sidelines of the G7 summit in Hiroshima, Japan.

Zelensky stated he held separate meetings with leaders of the United Kingdom, Italy, France, India, Germany and the European Commission.

The Ukrainian president also added he submitted Ukraine’s 10-point peace formula to the participants of the Arab League Summit on Friday.

“And we will do everything to ensure that the world’s involvement in our peace initiative is as high as possible,” he continued.

Zelensky mentioned India in particular, saying that he believes the country “will take part in the restoration of the international order based on the rules that are obviously needed by all free nations.”

Zelensky met with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday, the first in-person meeting between the two since Russia’s invasion began in February 2022. Modi – who has so far refused to condemn the invasion – said India would do “everything we can” to help end the war.

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