Live Update: Russia’s “Special Operation” in Ukraine; Day 462

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:

US has been clear with Ukrainians it doesn’t support attacks on Russian soil: White House

The administration of President Joe Biden has “been clear, privately and publicly, with the Ukrainians that we don’t support attacks on Russian soil,” White House National Security Council Coordinator for Strategic Communications John Kirby told CNN Wednesday following a spate of drone attacks in the Moscow region.

“We are going to continue to give them what they need to defend themselves and defend their territory, Ukrainian soil, but we don’t support attacks on in Russia,” Kirby told CNN This Morning Wednesday.

“We agree that Ukrainians has the right of self-defense — my goodness, over the last 15 months, we’ve been doing very little else other than helping them defend themselves and defend their territory against this Russian aggression. What we have said is we don’t want to encourage or enable attacks inside Russia, because we don’t want to see the war escalate beyond the violence has already visited upon the Ukrainian people,” he added.

Kirby would not say, however, if the US had concluded that Ukraine was behind the drone incursions, telling CNN’s Poppy Harlow, “We’re still trying to get information here and develop some sort of sense of what happened… but I can’t tell you that we have any definitive information at this point.”

Ukraine has denied involvement in Tuesday’s attack in Moscow, even as one top official made it clear that Russia was getting a taste of its own medicine after months of bombarding Ukrainian cities.

“Of course, we enjoy watching and predicting an increase in attacks,” said Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak.

“But of course, we have nothing to do directly with it,” he added.

But Kirby reiterated Wednesday that Ukrainian officials have assured the United States they will not use equipment contributed from the United States to strike inside Russia.

“I think we can all understand that if we give [President Vladimir] Putin what he’s claiming, this is a war against the West, a war against the United States, a war against NATO, there’s going to be a whole lot more suffering across the European continent, so we don’t want to see this war escalate,” he said.

“Now, look, once we provide systems to the Ukrainians, and this is an important point, they get to decide what they’re going to do with them. They have given us assurances that they won’t use our equipment to strike inside Russia. But once it goes to them, it belongs to them,” he continued.

Shelling injures 4 in “massive strike” in Russia’s Belgorod region: Governor

Four people were injured in a “massive strike” on the town of Shebekino in Russia’s southwestern Belgorod region, Gov. Vyacheslav Gladkov said on Telegram.

“Two were promptly taken to a hospital in Belgorod,” Gladkov stated, adding, “The man has shrapnel wounds to the neck and back, the condition is serious, the woman has shrapnel wounds to the arm and forearm. Doctors are now conducting all the necessary examinations.”

Gladkov earlier reported that one woman was injured in shelling of the region, which borders northeastern Ukraine

Eight apartment buildings, four homes, a school and two administrative buildings were damaged in the shelling, Gladkov said.

Children will be evacuated from Shebekino and the border town of Grayvoron, with the first 300 taken on Wednesday further east to the town of Voronezh, he added.

On Tuesday, Gladkov reported dozens of strikes by Ukrainian mortar and artillery fire in several areas of Belgorod. One person was killed and two others were injured in an attack on a temporary accommodation center, he stated.

It comes after a group of anti-Putin Russian nationals, who are aligned with the Ukrainian army, claimed responsibility for an attack in Belgorod last week. 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.”

Russia will continue improving its air defense system: Kremlin

Kremlin spokesperson, Dmitry Peskov, said Wednesday Russia will continue improving its air defense system following the Tuesday drone attack on Moscow.

President Vladimir Putin said Tuesday the city’s air defenses worked normally but there was still “work to be done to make it better.”

Asked to clarify the Russian President’s remarks, Peskov stated, “The system worked effectively, but there is room for improvement. Work will continue to improve the air defense system.”

Peskov added the Kremlin had noted the reaction from London and Washington to the Moscow drone attacks but “would prefer to hear at least some words of condemnation.”

“It is clear what they [those who carried out the attack] want to provoke us… We will calmly and consistently think about how to deal with this,” Peskov said, adding that Russia will continue its “special military operation” in Ukraine.

Russia steps up production of weapons and equipment

Russian defense enterprises “have multiplied” their production of weapons and other military equipment needed for what Moscow euphemistically calls its “special military operation” in Ukraine, Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin stated Wednesday, according to state news agency TASS.

“The defense-industrial complex is now operating under maximum pressure,” Mishustin said in a video address to the participants of board meeting of the Russian Ministry of Industry and Trade.

“In parallel with meeting the production targets, weapons and equipment continue to be improved nonstop,” Mishustin added.

Russia has also introduced a temporary ban on the export of cartridges for civilian and service rifles, as well as cartridge cases and cartridges for rifled firearms of certain calibers, according to a statement released by the Russian government on Wednesday.

The decree, signed by Mishustin, takes effect on May 31 and states that the ban does not apply to the export of cartridges and cartridge cases meant for the activities of Russia’s Armed Forces, “other troops” and “military formations,” according to the statement.

“The decision is aimed at ensuring the protection of the interests of the state,” the statement reads.

The decree was prepared as part of the execution of a Presidential Decree “On the Application of Special Economic Measures in the Sphere of Foreign Economic Activity to Ensure the Security of the Russian Federation,” according to the statement.

The ban will remain in effect until the end of the year.

“Situation is rather alarming” as shelling continues in Belgorod: Moscow

The Kremlin is concerned about the situation in Belgorod, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov stated.

“We are indeed concerned about this situation, shelling of civilian objects continues there,” Peskov said.

“In this case, too, by the way, we have not heard a single word of condemnation from any one from the collective West, so far. The situation is rather alarming. Measures are being taken,” he added.

His comments come after the town of Shebekino in Russia’s Belgorod region was hit by a “massive strike,” injuring four people, Gov. Vyacheslav Gladkov said on Telegram Wednesday.

Eight apartment buildings, four private homes, a school and two administrative buildings were all damaged in the shelling, according to Gladkov.

Gladkov also added that children will be evacuated out of Shebekino and Grayvoron, with the first 300 taken today to Voronezh.

Berlin orders closure of four Russian consulates in Germany

The German government has ordered the closure of four out of five Russian consulates.

Berlin said the German diplomatic presence in Russia will also be reduced and announced the closure of its consulates in Kaliningrad, Novosibirsk and Yekaterinburg.

Last month, according to Russian state media reports, Moscow expelled more than 20 German diplomats following the “mass” removal of Russian embassy staff from Germany and accused Berlin of destroying ties.

Kyiv says EU ban on Ukrainian grain helps Putin

Ukraine’s agriculture ministry has warned that European Union bans on its grain exports will help Russian President Vladimir Putin in his plan to divide Europe.

“Continuation of restrictions means putting additional weapons in Putin’s hands against unity in Europe,” the Ukrainian agriculture ministry said, adding, “Current restrictions must be cancelled.”

Several EU nations, including Ukraine’s staunch ally Poland, imposed bans on Ukrainian grain earlier this year, in an effort to protect EU farmers.

On Tuesday, the 27-member bloc’s agriculture commissioner Janusz Wojciechowski called for the current ban to be extended at least until the end of October.

Explosion near Russia, Belarus and Ukraine tripoint border monument

Ukrainian officials said an explosion near the Three Sisters monument at the border with Belarus, Russia and Ukraine on Tuesday was due to Russian forces blowing up the Chernihiv-Bryansk road.

Andrii Demchenko, spokesperson for the State Border Guard Service of Ukraine, told CNN: “Yesterday, in the Chernihiv region, border detachments of the State Border Guard Service registered an explosion at noon in the direction of the junction of the three countries.”

“Later it was found that the Russian occupiers had blown up the Chernihiv-Bryansk road. As we can see from ‘Kyiv in three days’, they started blowing up roads, probably fearing that Ukraine would launch an offensive against the regional center [Bryansk],” the spokesperson said.

“But Ukraine is not an aggressor… our state is exclusively defensive and we do not need Bryansk. However, we do need the fall of the decision-making center where it was decided to wage war against Ukraine, so let them blow it up,” he added.

South Africa moves to allow Putin to attend summit despite ICC arrest warrant

South Africa has issued diplomatic immunity to all officials attending a summit in August, meaning Russian President Vladimir Putin might be able to travel to the country despite an International Criminal Court (ICC) warrant for his arrest.

South African officials, which announced the controversial decision on Monday in a government gazette notice, insisted that it may not override the ICC arrest warrant. As a signatory to the ICC, South Africa may be legally obligated to arrest Putin. The court issued a warrant for his arrest in March over the alleged deportation of children from Ukraine to Russia.

South Africa is hosting a meeting of the BRICS group of developing nations — Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa — in August.

“This is a standard conferment of immunities that we do for all international conferences and summits held in South Africa irrespective of the level of participation,” South Africa’s foreign ministry said in a statement.

The ministry added this was routine protocol to protect the conference and its attendees, not for specific individuals, adding that “these immunities do not override any warrant that may have been issued by any international tribunal against any attendee of the conference.”

South Africa’s main opposition party, the Democratic Alliance (DA), said in a statement Tuesday that it had launched a court application to request the government detain Putin and surrender him to the ICC, if he were to visit the country. The DA said their application outlines precise steps to be taken should a request for Putin’s arrest be made by the ICC, so that there is “no legal ambiguity relating to the procedure to be followed, and the obligations placed upon the state.”

The South African government has come under intense criticism for its stance on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and has routinely abstained from votes condemning Russia at the United Nations General Assembly.

While South African leadership has repeatedly stated that they are neutral in the conflict and have frequently called for a negotiated settlement, their actions have come under increasing scrutiny from Western powers. Earlier this month, the US ambassador to South Africa accused the South African government of delivering arms and ammunition to a sanctioned Russian cargo vessel late last year.

Multiple drones shot down in Russia’s Bryansk region

A drone attack was launched on Russia’s Bryansk region, state news agency RIA Novosti said Wednesday.

About 10 drones tried to attack the Klimovsky district overnight, RIA reported, citing emergency services.

RIA did not report any damage and said some of the drones were shot down, while others were intercepted by electronic warfare.

Bryansk is on the border with Ukraine and has seen previous attacks blamed on Kyiv.

Earlier this month, there were unconfirmed reports that four of Russia’s aircraft were shot down inside Bryansk.

One Russian media outlet says that at least two combat aircraft – an Su-34 and an Su-35 – and two Mi-8 helicopters crashed.

Ukraine did not confirm its air defenses were involved in the reported downing of the Russian aircraft, but said the aircraft “ran into some trouble.”

Drone crashes at oil refinery in Russia’s Krasnodar region: Officials

Authorities in southern Russia said a drone crashed at an oil refinery in the Krasnodar region early on Wednesday, an incident that followed reports of a fire due to a possible drone attack at another nearby fuel depot.

In a statement on Telegram, Krasnodar’s operational headquarters said no casualties were reported in the 4 a.m. attack at the Ilsky oil refinery.

“As a result of the fall, the apparatus crashed, the plant’s infrastructure was not damaged, and there was no fire,” the statement added.

In a separate incident Wednesday, reports emerged of a possible drone attack on the Afipsky oil refinery, also located in Krasnodar, that caused a fire but no casualties.

The two facilities are located about 20 kilometers (12 miles) apart.

Russia accuses US of ‘encouraging terrorists’ after Moscow strike

The United States is encouraging Ukraine to launch cross-border “terrorist” attacks, a Russian official alleged, after Moscow was hit by a series of drone strikes.

The White House announced on Tuesday it did not support attacks inside Russia, and that it is still gathering information on the incident.

“What are these attempts to hide behind the phrase they are ‘gathering information’?” Anatoly Antonov, Russia’s ambassador to the US, said in remarks published on the Telegram messaging channel.

“This is an encouragement for Ukrainian terrorists,” he added.

A Ukrainian presidential aide denied Kyiv was directly involved in the drone attack on Moscow, but stated that Ukraine was enjoying watching events and forecast more to come.

White House “does not support attacks inside of Russia”

“We do not support attacks inside of Russia. That’s it. Period,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said at a briefing.

Washington is a major supplier of weaponry to Ukraine on the condition it uses it to defend itself and to retake Ukrainian territory occupied by Russian forces.

A drone attack on Russia’s capital city early Tuesday resulted in “minor damage to several buildings,” but no casualties were reported, Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin said.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has stated that Ukraine “chose the path of intimidation,” adding that “Kyiv provokes us to mirror actions.”

1 person killed in strike in Russia’s Belgorod region: Governor

One person was killed and two others were injured in a Ukrainian attack on a temporary accommodation center, according to Vyacheslav Gladkov, the governor of Russia’s Belgorod region.

Gladkov said in a Telegram post on Tuesday that “[…] the security guard of this institution died. Two more people were injured. They are in critical condition in intensive care.”

According to Gladkov, cannon artillery was used in the strike that hit the center.

There has been increased fighting along the border, specifically in the Belgorod region, officials have reported.

Namely, last week, a group of anti-Putin Russian nationals – who are aligned with the Ukrainian army – claimed responsibility for an attack in Belgorod, leaving Moscow to say it was fighting the group of saboteurs.

In a Telegram post, groups calling themselves the “Freedom of Russia Legion” and “Russian Volunteer Corps” said they had “liberated” a settlement in the Belgorod region, which borders Ukraine.

US expects Sweden accession to NATO in weeks ahead: Secretary of state

The US expects Sweden’s accession to NATO to be completed “in the weeks ahead,” according to Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

“We have no doubt that it can be, and it should be and we expect it to be,” said Blinken at a news conference in Luleå, Sweden, with Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson.

Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine prompted non-aligned Finland and Sweden to abandon their neutrality and seek protection within NATO. Finland officially became the 31st member of NATO on April 4.

US President Joe Biden said he spoke on Monday with newly reelected Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and discussed the potential of approving the sale of new US fighter jets if Turkey drops its objections to Sweden joining NATO.

However, Blinken stated the two issues are viewed as separate by the administration.

“From our perspective, we believe that both should go forward and should go forward as quickly as possible — that is to say, Sweden’s accession — and we’ll move forward on the F-16 package,” Blinken added.

The secretary of state also said that it was “appropriate” that every member have its say on the accession of new members into the alliance.

“Each member is making a solemn commitment to every other member that it will join in coming to their defense if they are the victims of aggression, and so it’s important that every member have its say in this process,” he added.

Ukraine has the right to “project force” beyond its own borders for self-defense: UK foreign secretary

British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said on Tuesday that Ukraine has the right to “project force” over its borders for self-defense, following a drone attack in Moscow.

“Ukraine does have the legitimate right to defend itself. It has the legitimate right to do so within its own borders, of course, but it does also have the right to project force beyond its borders to undermine Russia’s ability to project force into Ukraine itself,” Cleverly told reporters after a joint news conference with Estonia’s Prime Minister Kaja Kallas.

“So legitimate military targets beyond its own border are part of Ukraine’s self-defense. And we should recognize that,” he added.

Cleverly said he does not have any assessment over the drone attacks in Moscow on Tuesday, and he was referring to military targets more broadly beyond borders that are “internationally recognized as being legitimate as part of a nation’s self-defense.”

At least three residential buildings were damaged by drones in Moscow on Tuesday, Russian state news agency RIA Novosti reported.

Russia has blamed Ukraine for the incident, while Kyiv has denied any direct involvement.

A National Security Council spokesperson stressed that the US does not back attacks in Russia.

“We saw the news and are still gathering information about what happened,” the spokesperson continued, adding, “As general matter, we do not support attacks inside of Russia.”

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