Friday, June 21, 2024

Russia’s “Special Operation” in Ukraine; Day 460: Ukraine says has shot down 37 Russian missiles, 29 drones

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:

Ukraine says it downed 11 Iskander missiles launched by Russia in daytime attack

Ukraine downed 11 Iskander missiles launched by Russia in a daytime attack on Monday, the commander in chief of Ukraine’s Armed Forces said Monday.

“At about 11:30am, it attacked Kyiv region with ballistic and cruise missiles from the Iskander missile system,” Valerii Zaluzhnyi stated.

“A total of 11 missiles were fired: ‘Iskander-M’ and ‘Iskander-K’ from the northern direction. All targets were destroyed by air defense forces and means,” he added.

Russian defense ministry claims it hit Ukrainian airfields and destroyed all targets

Russian forces hit Ukrainian airfields, destroying all targets, the Russian Defense Ministry claimed Monday.

“Tonight, the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation launched a group strike with long-range precision air-launched weapons against enemy targets at airfields,” the defense ministry said.

“As a result of the strike, command posts and radar posts, as well as aviation equipment, storage facilities with weapons and ammunition of the Armed Forces of Ukraine were hit,” it added in its daily briefing.

Earlier on Monday, Ukraine claimed that Russia launched a widespread missile and drone attack on its territory overnight. Ukraine’s Armed Forces said Ukrainian air defenses destroyed 67 out of 75 “air targets” launched on Kyiv.

Khmelnytskyi regional military administration said Russia had attacked a military facility, in the western region overnight, damaging five aircraft.

Denmark pledges another $2.5bn in military aid for Ukraine

Denmark’s Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen has announced another $2.59bn for military aid to Ukraine over this year and next in what Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zleensky has described as a “major contribution”.

Frederiksen, who is seen as a potential contender to become the new head of NATO, said on Monday that a further 17.9bn crowns (£2.08bn) would be used for military aid for Ukraine, adding to the already-established $1bn fund for military, civilian and business aid to Ukraine in 2023.

Zelensky said on Twitter: “This major contribution will further strengthen the combat capabilities of the Armed Forces of Ukraine in the short and medium term.”

Metros in Kyiv became ‘largest city shelter’ for residents amid Russia’s missile attacks

Ukraine’s Ministry of Defence said in a tweet that Metro stations in Kyiv became the “largest city shelter” for thousands of Ukrainians amid Russia’s fresh wave of daytime attacks.

Kyiv officials say the Ukrainian armed troops shot down all Russian missiles targeted at the city.

Putin signs law allowing elections in Kremlin-occupied Ukrainian territories

Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed a new law which will allow elections in Russian-occupied Ukrainian territories to take place later this year.

The Kremlin took over these Ukrainian regions during its war in the country.

Ukraine shelling settlements in Russia’s Belgorod region: Governor

Ukrainian forces are shelling several settlements in Russia’s Belgorod region, which borders north-eastern Ukraine, according to its governor.

Vyacheslav Gladkov said in a Telegram post Monday that two industrial facilities had been attacked in the town of Shebekino. He added four people were injured after the shelling of building containing “paint and varnish liquids”.

Reports of Ukraine’s shelling of Belgorod comes after a group of anti-Putin Russian nationals, who are aligned with the Ukrainian army, claimed responsibility for an attack in Russian’s southwestern region of Belgorod last week.

The so-called Freedom for Russia legion launched a cross-border attack on Belgorod, which Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu on Wednesday designated a “terrorist act.”

The Ukrainian government distanced itself from the Russian fighters, saying “in Ukraine these units are part of defense and security forces. In Russia they are acting as independent entities.”

Attacks on Russian military bases in occupied Mariupol increasing: Ukrainian officials

Following reports of explosions in the Russian-occupied city of Mariupol on Sunday, the exiled Mariupol City Council said Monday the number of attacks on Russian bases in and around the southern city is increasing.

“The number of attacks on Russian occupiers’ bases in the Mariupol sector is increasing. Recently, explosions have been heard in Mariupol and in the district,” the council said in a Telegram post.

“In particular, according to preliminary information, strikes were carried out in Yurivka, Nikolske and Urzuf. These are the locations of Russian military warehouses and bases. Recently, the occupiers considered these settlements to be rear areas, but the situation is changing,” the post added.

Mariupol, a strategic port city on the Sea of Azov, witnessed some of the most intense fighting since Russia launched its invasion more than a year ago. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has estimated that “tens of thousands” died during the siege of the city. Ukrainian forces finally evacuated the city in May last year, after resisting Russia’s advances for nearly three months.

Images of Mariupol’s destruction became symbols of the Kremlin’s use of indiscriminate firepower in Ukraine, drawing stark visual parallels with the levelling of cities like Syria’s Aleppo or the Chechen capital Grozny.

Ukraine’s military intelligence has accused Russian officials of overseeing war crimes against the civilian population in Mariupol in the course of the siege.

The reports of increased Ukrainian strikes on the occupied city come amid speculation that Kyiv is set to launch its counteroffensive in an attempt to reclaim territories captured by Russia.

Black Sea grain deal will cease to be operational if demands not met: Russia

Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov stated that if Moscow’s demands are not fulfilled in the UN-brokered Black Sea grain deal, the deal will no longer remain operational.

Speaking at a briefing in Kenya, Lavrov said that less than 3% of the grain exported under the deal had reached the world’s poorest countries and that Russia’s requirements were not being fulfilled “at all.”

Sweden to discuss NATO membership with Turkey

Sweden’s Foreign Minister Tobias Billstrom says he will discuss his country’s NATO membership with his Turkish counterpart, Mevlut Cavusoglu, at the military alliance’s meeting in Oslo, according to Swedish media reports.

Billstrom said he had contacted Cavusoglu to congratulate President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on his re-election over the weekend.

“He responded very quickly and confirmed that we could make contact and discuss the NATO question,” he told Swedish national broadcaster SVT.

Sweden and Finland submitted NATO membership bids last year, in an effort to fortify their armed forces after Russia invaded Ukraine.

Turkey has only ratified Finland’s NATO membership. Erdogan said Sweden has not yet met all of his country’s demands.

Ukraine says Russia fired ballistic missiles in new attacks on Kyiv

Ukraine’s air force says Russia fired ballistic missiles at Kyiv in the latest wave of daytime attacks on the Ukrainian capital.

“The enemy used missiles of a ballistic trajectory — preliminarily Iskanders. There is a possibility that S-300 and S-400 missiles were also used,” air force spokesman Yuri Ihnat told Ukrainian TV.

Vacuum in the field of arms control: Kremlin

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov says a vacuum is emerging in the area of arms control due to poor ties with a number of states.

“The Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe was an inanimate mechanism and ceased to operate through no fault of the Russian Federation,” Peskov told reporters, according to Russia’s TASS news agency.

“There will be no direct consequences of the denunciation of the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe now, but there is a vacuum in the field of arms control that needs to be filled,” he added.

The armed forces treaty was signed in 1990 and became effective in 1992. It aims to limit “key armaments from the Atlantic Ocean to the Ural Mountains between NATO and the Warsaw Treaty Organisation”.

Wagner chief ‘appears to have indirectly undermined’ Russia’s Putin: ISW

Russia’s paramilitary group Wagner’s chief Yevgheny Prigozhin “appears to have again indirectly undermined Russian President Vladimir Putin’s authority and regime”, according to US-based think tank Institute for the Study of War (ISW).

ISW’s assessment comes after Prigozhin told a journalist that he is convinced that senior Kremlin officials have banned reporting about him in state media.

The Wagner chief then spoke about an unnamed official and said “If you are starting a war, please have character, will, and steel balls – and only then you will be able to achieve something.”

“Prigozhin’s comments are likely targeted at Putin whom the Russian state media has routinely portrayed as a leader minutely involved with small infrastructure projects and the lives of ordinary Russian people,” ISW said.

Russia puts US Senator Graham on wanted list

Russia’s interior ministry has put US Senator Lindsey Graham on a wanted list, Russian media have reported, citing the ministry’s database.

In an edited video released by the Ukrainian president’s office of Graham’s meeting with Volodymyr Zelensky on Friday, Graham was shown saying “the Russians are dying” and then saying US support was the “best money we’ve ever spent”.

After Russia criticised the remarks, Ukraine released a full video of the meeting which showed the two remarks were not linked.

Russia’s Investigative Committee said on Sunday that it was opening a criminal investigation into Graham’s comments. It did not specify what crime he was suspected of.

Graham disputed Russian criticism of his support for Ukraine on Sunday, saying he had simply praised the spirit of Ukrainians in resisting a Russian invasion with assistance provided by Washington.

Russia attacks military facility in Ukraine’s western Khmelnytskyi region

Russia has attacked warehouses, including a military facility, in Ukraine’s western Khmelnytskyi region overnight, local officials said Monday.

It is rare for Ukraine to publicize attacks on military facilities.

“At the moment, work is underway to localize fires at fuel and lubricant warehouses and storage of military material assets,” the Khmelnytskyi regional military administration said on Telegram.

“Five aerial vehicles have been put out of action. The runway is being repaired,” the post said, adding that data on victims is being clarified.

Ukraine says air defenses shot down dozens of Russian cruise missiles and drones early Monday

Ukrainian air defenses destroyed 67 out of 75 “air targets” launched overnight in the latest Russian attack on Kyiv, the commander-in-chief of Ukraine’s Armed Forces said Monday.

Gen. Valerii Zaluzhnyi stated that 37 cruise missiles, 29 drones and one reconnaissance unmanned aerial vehicle were shot down by Kyiv’s forces.

“Overnight, the Russian occupiers attacked Ukrainian military facilities and critical infrastructure objects with cruise missiles and attack drones,” Zaluzhnyi said on Telegram.

“The enemy fired up to 40 Kh-101/Kh-555 air-launched cruise missiles from nine Tu-95MS strategic aircraft from the Caspian Sea. From the northern and southern directions, the enemy attacked with Iranian Shahed-136/131 UAVs. A total of 35 attack drones,” he added.

Kyiv’s military administration previously estimated Ukrainian air defenses had shot down more than 40 “air targets.”

Kyiv police Chief Andrii Nebytov said “almost all enemy targets were destroyed,” but some buildings were damaged.

“As a result of the attack, residential buildings and infrastructure facilities in several districts of the region were damaged. No one was killed or injured,” Nebytov added.

The new attack comes a day after a huge wave of Russian drones targeted Kyiv, marking the largest such assault on the capital since the conflict began, according to Ukrainian authorities.

Blasts reported in Kyiv early Monday: Mayor

Explosions were reported in multiple districts across the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv early Monday, a local official said on Telegram.

Kyiv mayor Vitali Klitschko stated there were explosions in the southwestern district of Holosiivskyi and the Podilskyi district.

Klitschko also added missiles had been shot down near Kyiv, writing on Telegram “The air defense is at work!”

So far there have been no reports of injuries.

Klitschko said a house in the Podilskyi district had caught fire from falling debris and that debris had also fallen on a home in the Sviatoshynskyi district that had already been evacuated.

Zelensky hails Ukrainian air defenses as heroes following Kyiv drone attacks

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky hailed Ukrainian air defenses as “heroes” following a barrage of drone attacks on Kyiv overnight.

In a post on his official Telegram channel on Sunday, Zelensky highlighted the work of the Air Defenses of Ukraine, who he said, “hear the air raid alarm differently than most people.”

“You look up to destroy enemy missiles, aircraft, helicopters, and drones. Every time you shoot down enemy drones and missiles, lives are saved,” the president said.

“You are our heroes,” Zelensky continued.

On Sunday, Ukrainian air defenses said they had succeeded in downing 52 out of the 54 drones launched by Russia. In the capital, Kyiv, the defenses managed to shoot down 40 drones, according to the city’s military administration officials.

European allies still with us on Ukraine’s territorial integrity: FM

Ukraine’s foreign minister says the country’s European allies remain in lockstep with Kyiv over the war, amid reports that Chinese envoy Li Hui, who has been visiting European capitals, is urging acceptance of Russia’s territorial gains as a way to end the fighting.

Western interlocuters of the Chinese diplomat on his recent visit – which took in Kyiv, Warsaw, Berlin, Paris, Brussels and Moscow – were told to put pressure on Ukraine and force it to make compromises on territory, according to the Wall Street Journal.

But in a video message on his Facebook page, Dmytro Kuleba said western partners had assured him that no such moves had been entertained in discussions with the Chinese envoy.

“I immediately contacted my colleagues in the capitals [Li] visited, and all of them confirmed there had been no talks or negotiations about recognizing as Russia those territories [it currently controls] in Ukraine,” Kuleba stated.

“No one will do anything against us behind Ukraine’s back, because we have built trusting relationships with all our key partners,” he added.

Beijing is a key ally of Moscow, particularly in economic ties, but has been careful to maintain a degree of distance over Russia’s actions in Ukraine.

In February, China published a series of principles it said should form the basis for ending the war, including rapid resumption of direct dialogue between the parties and a comprehensive ceasefire.

However, the 12-point paper made no mention of possible Ukrainian concessions, instead stipulating: “The sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of all countries must be effectively upheld.”

In his video message, Kuleba stressed Ukraine would continue its dialogue with China but reiterated his country’s long-standing position there would be no discussion of territorial concession, nor of putting the conflict into a ‘freeze.’

Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, who met with Li in Moscow on Friday, said China had a “balanced position” on the war, and welcomed “Beijing’s readiness to play a positive role in its settlement,” according to a statement on the Russian Foreign Ministry website.

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