Saturday, September 23, 2023

Live Update: Russia’s “Special Operation” in Ukraine; Day 468

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 destroyed dam will not affect counter-offensive plans

President Volodymyr Zelensky has stated the attack on the Nova Kakhovka dam would not affect Kyiv’s plans to go on the offensive and claw back lost territory.

“The explosion of the dam did not affect Ukraine’s ability to de-occupy its own territories,” he said on Telegram, adding he spoke to his top military commanders and the army was at the highest level of readiness.

Russia says Bakhmut suburb is under its control

Russia’s defence ministry says that Berkhivka, a suburb of Bakhmut, is entirely under the Kremlin’s control.

“An attack by fighters of the Armed Forces of Ukraine was successfully repelled by Russian units,” the ministry said on Telegram and added that “a report by individual sources about the alleged abandonment of Berkhivka by Russian troops does not correspond to reality.”

The ministry’s comments come after the head of Russia’s Wagner Group, Yevgeny Prigozhin, who led Moscow’s battle in Bakhmut, accused the defence ministry of partly relinquishing Wagner’s troops in Berkhivka.

Dam breach a ‘consequence’ of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine: UN boss

The United Nations’ Secretary-General Antonio Guterres says that while the world body does not have any independent information on how the Nova Kakhovka dam burst, “one thing is clear, this is another devastating consequence of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.”

Both Russia and Ukraine have called for a meeting at the UN Security Council to discuss the dam breach.

Russia says town of Oleshky is ‘almost completely flooded’

The Russian-installed chairman of Ukraine’s Kherson region, Andrei Alexeyenko, says the town of Oleshky in the Moscow-controlled southern bank of the Dnipro River is “almost completely flooded after the dam breach.”

“Evacuation … is possible only using special equipment,” Alexeyenko said on Telegram.

Russia will convene UN Security Council meeting over dam blast

Russia’s permanent representative to the UN, Vasily Nebenzya, says the country will convene a meeting at the UN Security Council (UNSC), to discuss the destruction of the Kakhovka dam blast, according to a report from Russia’s state-news agency RIA Novosti.

Earlier, Ukraine’s foreign ministry also called on the UNSC to hold an “urgent meeting” over the dam breach.

Ukraine ‘blew up’ Kakhovka dam in order to redeploy units: Russia’s DM

Russia’s defence minister says Ukraine blew up the Kakhovka dam in order to “redeploy units” from the Kherson region, according to a statement by the Kremlin’s defence ministry.

Sergei Shoigu added that the dam breach and flooding “were designed to prevent Russia from attacking near Kherson,” while allowing Ukraine to “transfer units and equipment from the Kherson front to the area of offensive operations”.

Zelensky discusses ‘peace plan’ with pope’s envoy

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky stated that he has urged the Holy See to contribute to the implementation of a Ukrainian peace plan, after meeting Italian Cardinal Matteo Zuppi, an envoy of Pope Francis.

“We discussed the situation in Ukraine and humanitarian cooperation in the framework of the Ukrainian Peace Formula,” Zelensky said in a statement on Telegram.

He added that “only united efforts, diplomatic isolation and pressure on Russia can influence the aggressor and bring a just peace to the Ukrainian land.”

Wagner boss tears into Russian success claims

Yevgeny Prigozhin, the boss of the mercenary Wagner Group, has poured scorn on Russia’s defence ministry after it claimed it thwarted a “large-scale” offensive by Ukraine inflicting heavy losses.

Prigozhin, whose forces spent months fighting in the eastern Ukrainian town of Bakhmut and who is a frequent critic of Russia’s military top brass, dismissed their latest claims as “wild fantasies” on his Telegram channel.

Ukraine warns of ‘increased mine threat’ in Kherson due to flooding

Ukraine’s State Emergency Service has warned civilians to remain vigilant of mines dislodged by flooding due to the Nova Kakhovka dam blast.

“Do not approach or touch explosive objects under any circumstances!” it said in a statement.

The emergency service also added evacuations were under way and were being carried out in coordination with police.

Ukraine’s Interior Ministry announced five relief centres have also been set up in Kherson for evacuees before they are transported to safer locations.

Russian troops have repelled repeated Ukrainian offensives: DM

Russia’s Minister of Defence Sergei Shoigu stated that Moscow’s forces have repelled repeated Ukrainian offensives along the front line over the past three days.

“On June 5, the Kyiv regime attempted an offensive in seven directions with the forces of  five brigades,” Shoigu said, adding that the Ukrainian forces were stopped and suffered significant losses.

According to Russia’s TASS news agency, Shoigu said 15 Russian tanks and nine armoured vehicles were damaged by Ukrainian troops.

Shoigu stated that 71 Russian soldiers had been killed in what he called “an unsuccessful Ukrainian offensive in recent days.”

“I repeat, the enemy did not achieve its goals, suffered significant and incomparable losses,” he added, according to a statement on Telegram by Russia’s defence ministry.

Ukraine’s military says it is “equipped with all necessary watercraft” for crossing obstacles

The Ukrainian Armed Forces said they are “equipped with all the necessary watercraft” for “crossing water obstacles” after the destruction of a major dam and hydro-electric power plant caused flooding in parts of the Kherson region in southern Ukraine.

In a statement, the military reiterated that it believes Russian forces were responsible for the damage to the Nova Kakhovka dam which spans the Dnipro River.

Kyiv and Moscow have blamed each other for the incident early Tuesday, which sparked evacuations from nearby areas as dramatic scenes emerged of water gushing from a huge rupture in the dam.

Russian investigators open probe into Nova Kakhovka dam blast

Russia’s Investigative Committee says its has launched a “criminal investigation” into the destruction of the Kakhovka hydroelectric dam.

Earlier, Ukraine’s prosecutor-general also told Reuters that Kyiv had begun “urgent investigations” on the dam blast and was treating it as a “war crime” and a possible “ecocide” by Russia.

African countries push for early ceasefire in Ukraine

Leaders of several African countries are seeking an early ceasefire in Ukraine and intend to visit Moscow and Kiev in mid-June, the South African presidential administration said in a statement.

According to the government, following online talks held the day before, the presidents of Egypt, Zambia, the Comoros, Senegal, Uganda and South Africa “agreed that they would engage with both [Russian] President [Vladimir] Putin and [Ukrainian] President [Volodymyr] Zelensky on the elements for a ceasefire and a lasting peace in the region.”

“The foreign ministers of the respective countries were tasked to finalise the elements of a roadmap to peace. The presidents confirmed their availability to travel to Ukraine and Russia in mid-June,” the statement said.

During the meeting, the sides pointed out that Africa is highly interested in ending the conflict in Ukraine and is ready to mediate between the parties to resolve it. The continent is interested in putting an end to the conflict, given its huge negative consequences for African countries and the rest of the world in a number of vital sectors such as food and energy security and international finance.

On May 16, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that Russia and Ukraine had agreed to host an African delegation to seek a peaceful resolution to the conflict. Ramaphosa was speaking on behalf of a group of six African countries: Egypt, the Republic of Congo, Senegal, South Africa, Uganda, and Zambia. Consultations on the schedule for the trip are now underway.

NATO chief condemns dam destruction as “outrageous act”

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said the destruction of a crucial dam and hydro-electric power plant in the Russian-occupied Kherson region demonstrates “the brutality of Russia’s war in Ukraine.”

“The destruction of the Kakhovka dam today puts thousands of civilians at risk and causes severe environmental damage,” Stoltenberg tweeted on Tuesday.

“This is an outrageous act, which demonstrates once again the brutality of Russia’s war in Ukraine,” he added.

Stoltenberg is in the Slovakian capital Bratislava for a meeting of the “Bucharest Nine,” the group of Eastern flank NATO allies — Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania and Slovakia.

Western allies of Ukraine, including the transatlantic military alliance, have remained key supporters of Kyiv during the conflict by donating military aid or imposing sanctions against Russia.

Kremlin denies allegations that Russia attacked Nova Kakhovka dam, accuses Ukraine of “sabotage”

The Kremlin said it strongly rejects” accusations that Russia is responsible for damaging a sprawling dam and hydro-electric power plant in southern occupied Ukraine, as Kyiv and Moscow traded accusations over the destruction of the dam.

On a regular call with reporters, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said he “unequivocally” believes the incident was “deliberate sabotage” by Ukraine, adding that Russian President Vladimir Putin was being kept informed about the situation.

Peskov claimed the attack was “planned and carried out by order received from Kyiv, from the Kyiv regime. The Kyiv regime must bear full responsibility for all the consequences.”

He claimed Ukraine wanted to “deprive Crimea of water” and to distract from the battlefield.

Peskov added: “Having launched large-scale offensive operations two days ago, now the Ukrainian Armed Forces are not achieving their goals. These offensive actions are choking.”

Multiple senior Ukrainian officials and military figures accused the Kremlin of sabotaging the dam on Tuesday, saying Russian forces blew up the dam “in panic.”

This incident occurred a day after Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar stated a Ukrainian offensive is “taking place in several directions,” heightening speculation that a major push by Kyiv to recapture land held by Russia’s occupying forces could be getting underway.

Ukraine calls for urgent UN Security Council meeting over dam blast

Ukraine’s foreign ministry has called for “an urgent meeting” of the United Nations Security Council to discuss what it called a “Russian terrorist attack” on the Kakhovka dam in southern Ukraine.

In a statement, the ministry also asked the governing board of the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency to discuss the dam blast, and demanded new international sanctions on Russia, in particular on the missile industry and nuclear sector.

Zelensky says evacuations have been ordered, with 80 settlements “in flood zone”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said evacuations have been ordered with immediate effect after a sprawling dam and hydro-electric power plant in Russian-occupied Kherson was destroyed early Tuesday.

There are “about 80 settlements in the flood zone,” Zelensky posted on Telegram following an emergency meeting of the National Security and Defence Council.

He went on to lay out the timeline of events before stressing that all towns and villages in the region must be supplied with water.

The explosion occurred at 2.50 a.m. local time (7.50 p.m. ET) when — Zelensky stated — “Russian terrorists carried out an internal explosion of the structures of the Kakhovka hydroelectric power plant.”

Russian authorities have denied their involvement in the destruction of the Nova Kakhova dam.

A total of 885 people have been evacuated from the region so far amid fears of widespread devastation.

Ukraine’s Interior Ministry said earlier that Ukrainian authorities were helping people in the liberated west bank of the Dnipro River in Kherson, adding they “are worried” about people in the occupied east bank.

West seeks to partition Russia, open up new war fronts: FM

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov says the West aims to divide Russia, accusing it of raising tensions with Moscow and seeking to “open up” new war fronts.

“The goal of partitioning of the Russian Federation has been already openly declared by many political scientists and politicians,” Lavrov said during his visit to a Russian military base in Tajikistan on Monday.

He added that Western countries are trying to provoke Russia in new regions, including Central Asia and South Caucasus after they managed to incite Kiev to escalate the conflict with Moscow.

“It is remarkable that, having unleashed the Ukrainian regime and continuing to inundate it with the most advanced weapons, the West is constantly looking for additional areas where it can irritate the Russian Federation, opening up the second and third fronts,” the minister continued.

Russia blew up dam to stop Ukrainian forces crossing Dnipro: Kyiv

Ukraine’s southern military command says Russia blew up the Nova Kakhovka dam in southern Ukraine to prevent Ukrainian forces from crossing the Dnipro River.

“This is a hysterical reaction,” military spokesperson Natalia Humeniuk stated in an online briefing.

“They were aware that the movement of the [Ukrainian] defence forces would take place and in this way tried to influence the defence forces so that the crossing of the Dnipro, which they feared, would not happen,” she added.

Ukraine says dam blast being investigated as ‘war crime’

Ukraine’s prosecutor general told Reuters that “urgent investigations” on the blast of the hydroelectric dam in the south of the country, had begun and added that the incident was being treated as a “war crime” and as possible “ecocide.”

Kyiv defines ecocide as “mass destruction of flora and fauna, poisoning of air or water resources, and also any other actions that may cause an environmental disaster” in Article 441 of its criminal code.

No direct threat to Ukraine’s power system from dam explosion: Energy ministry

Ukraine’s energy ministry said an explosion at a major dam and hydro-electric power plant in Russian-occupied Kherson has caused “no threats” to the country’s electricity supply amid fears of large-scale devastation.

The overnight blast at the Nova Kakhovka dam in the southern region has not directly affected nationwide power systems but regional power supplies are at risk due to flooding, the ministry said in a statement.

It said: “There are no threats to the stability of electricity supply. The generated electricity is sufficient to cover the needs of consumers.”

Nearly 12,000 people in the Kherson region have lost power due to flooding “and there may be problems with water supply,” the statement noted, adding, “Preventive anti-crisis measures are being prepared.”

Further east, the ministry announced “there is no direct threat” to the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant despite the “gradual decrease in the water level” at spent fuel cooling ponds. The plant in the southeastern region lies upstream from the destroyed dam and is also under Russian control.

Flooding has started to hit Dnipro River settlements: Ukrainian officials

A senior Ukrainian military official stated settlements on the banks of the Dnipro River in the Kherson region are starting to experience flooding following the destruction of the Nova Kakhovka dam early Tuesday.

As water in the Kakhovka reservoir continues to rapidly gush out, Ukrainian officials have warned the levels will be “critically high” in a matter of hours. The reservoir typically holds around 18 cubic kilometers of water, about equal to the Great Salt Lake in the US state of Utah, according to Reuters.

Oleksandr Prokudin, head of the Kherson regional military administration, said in a statement on Telegram Tuesday that around 16,000 people on the west bank of the river are in a “critical zone.”

As of 7:30 am local time (12:30 a.m. ET), the following settlements are fully or partially flooded, according to Prokudin:

  • Tiahynka
  • Lvove
  • Odradokamyanka
  • Ivanivka
  • Mykilske Tokarivka
  • Poniativka
  • Bilozerka
  • Ostriv microdistrict of Kherson city

About 80 settlements, most of which are occupied by Russian forces, are in the zone of potential flooding, Ukraine’s Ministry of Internal Affairs said earlier.

“We understand that other settlements will be flooded, and we are ready for this,” Prokudin added.

More than 700 Kherson residents have already been evacuated, according to Ukrainian officials. Prokudin said they would first be taken to Kherson city, “then to Mykolaiv and from there to Khmelnytskyi, Odesa, Kropyvnytskyi, Kyiv and other cities.”

Over 700 people evacuated after Kherson dam destroyed: Ukrainian officials

A total of 742 residents have been evacuated in the Kherson region after a major dam and hydro-electric power plant was destroyed there early Tuesday, according to Ukraine’s Ministry of Internal Affairs.

The ministry said Ukrainian authorities were helping people in the liberated west bank of the Dnipro River in Kherson.

“We are worried about our people who remain in the temporarily occupied east bank of the region,” stated Internal Affairs Minister Ihor Klymenko.

About 80 settlements, most of which are occupied by Russian forces, are in the zone of potential flooding, according to the ministry.

“Water is coming. The situation is complicated by the fact that some roads are being washed away. This makes it impossible to drive to some settlements. Evacuation teams are looking for other ways,” the ministry said in a statement on its Telegram channel.

Ukrainian Railways is helping authorities to evacuate residents from Kherson.

Ukrainian military intelligence claims Russian forces blew up Nova Kakhovka dam in “panic”

Russian forces blew up the Nova Kakhovka dam “in panic,” according to a statement Tuesday from the intelligence department of Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense.

“The occupiers blew up the Kakhovka Reservoir dam in panic — this is an obvious terrorist attack and war crime that will become evidence in an international tribunal,” the statement on the Defense Intelligence’s Telegram channel said.

“This terrorist act is a sign of the Putin regime’s panic,” the statement continued.

The destruction of the dam created a “deadly danger” for Ukrainian citizens in the settlements on both banks of the Dnipro River. It also “affects the ecosystem of the entire Black Sea region” and increases the threat of a “nuclear catastrophe,” Defense Intelligence stressed.

Water in Kakhovka Reservoir will soon reach “critical level”: Ukrainian official

Water at the destroyed Nova Kakhovka dam will “reach a critical level” in five hours (around 7:30 a.m. ET), a senior Ukrainian official said on Tuesday.

“The water in the reservoir is falling rapidly, about 15 centimeters (5.9 inches) per hour. In five hours the water will reach a critical level,” Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to the head of the Ukrainian President’s Office, told CNN.

Ukraine’s military has blamed Russia for blowing up the dam, while a senior Russia-installed official said its destruction was “a serious terrorist attack.” The dam supplies water for much of southeastern Ukraine and the Crimean peninsula which was annexed by Russia in 2014.

On Tuesday, Podolyak claimed Russia’s goal was to create obstacles for Ukraine’s offensive actions, and the consequences of the dam’s destruction are “already catastrophic.”

“Russians deliberately hit the residents of the occupied Crimea. They exchanged them for certain opportunities to deter the offensive. The peninsula may be left without water supply for many years,” Podolyak said.

He also added that thousands or even tens of thousands of residents of the surrounding settlements are subject to urgent evacuation, and hundreds of homes and farms will be flooded.

He called the incident a “global ecological disaster,” warning that various animals and ecosystems will come under threat in the following hours.

Dam and hydroelectric plant “totally destroyed” as a result of explosion: Ukrainian energy operator

The Nova Kakhovka dam and hydroelectric plant was “totally destroyed as a result of the explosion of the engine room from the inside,” said Ukraine’s main hydropower generating company Ukrhydroenergo on Tuesday.

Ukrhydroenergo announced the plant “cannot be restored” and claimed “Russian forces blew up” the dam overnight.

Authorities are racing to evacuate residents from flood zones and gauge the level of damage.

Water levels are rapidly lowering and the reservoir is expected to be drained within the next four days, the company noted.

Ukrhydroenergo also said in a statement that “the uncontrolled decline in the reservoir level is an additional threat to the temporarily occupied Zaporizhzhia (nuclear power plant).”

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

The statement said the power plant uses water from the reservoir for turbine condensers and safety systems, with the cooling pond “now full.”

Ukrainian staff at the power plant “are monitoring all indicators,” it added.

Destruction of dam “threatens environmental disaster”: Ukrainian PM

The destruction of the Nova Kakhovka dam “threatens an environmental disaster” for the south of Ukraine, said the country’s Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal on Tuesday.

“The world must respond. Immediately. But not just with words, but with actions,” Shmyhal stated.

Shmyhal added that residents of the flooded areas are being evacuated, with operations “underway from the Ostriv microdistrict in Kherson city.” Evacuation trains to the southern city Mykolaiv are also being arranged, he continued.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has convened a National Security and Defense Council meeting, Shmyhal said, adding that another meeting on environmental safety and emergency response would be held next.

Shmyhal also said authorities were “assessing the environmental impact and the threat” to the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, which lies upstream from the dam.

“Due to the lack of access to it, such an assessment is difficult,” Shmyhal continued, adding that Russia “must immediately withdraw from” the plant to “avoid further disaster.”

Ukraine’s nuclear agency Energoatom announced the destruction of the dam may have negative consequences on the nuclear power plant but the situation is under control.

Water from destroyed dam will be “critically high” in hours: Ukrainian official

Water levels from the destroyed Nova Kakhovka dam are expected to reach “critically high” levels by about 11:00 a.m. local time (4:00 a.m. ET), Oleksandr Samoylenko, head of Kherson’s regional council said on national television.

“The water is rising. We see partial flooding of settlements. Indeed, the river flow has increased,” Samoylenko stated.

Kherson city will be particularly impacted, Samoylenko said, noting that some parts in the lowlands of the Dnipro and Inhulets rivers will also be affected.

Samoylenko added that hospitals are on alert and anyone who needs to be evacuated will be.

The critical Nova Kakhova dam spans the Dnipro River, a major waterway running through southeastern Ukraine. There are multiple towns and cities downstream, including Kherson, a city of some 300,000 people before Moscow’s invasion of its neighbor.

“No immediate nuclear safety risk” at Zaporizhzhia plant: UN watchdog

The International Atomic Energy Agency said Tuesday that its experts are “closely monitoring the situation” and there is “no immediate nuclear safety risk” at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant following the destruction of a major nearby dam.

The Nova Kakhovka dam in the Kherson region supplied water for much of southeastern Ukraine, including the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant, which lies upstream and is also under Russian control.

Meanwhile, Ukraine’s nuclear agency said Tuesday that the dam’s destruction may have negative consequences for the nuclear plant, but the situation is under control.

“The water from the Kakhovka reservoir is needed for the plant to receive replenishment for turbine condensers and safety systems of the ZNPP,” Energoatom said in a statement on Telegram.

“The cooling pond is now full: as of 8:00 am [local time], the water level is 16.6 meters, which is sufficient for the plant’s needs,” it added.

A spokesperson for Ukraine’s military also stated Tuesday that the situation at the plant is “under control.”

Ukraine has blamed Russia for blowing up the dam, while a senior Russia-installed official said its destruction was “a serious terrorist attack.”

Dam destruction will “certainly” affect Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant but situation is “under control”: Ukraine’s military

The destruction of the Nova Kakhovka dam will “certainly” affect the operation of the occupied Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in southern Ukraine but the situation is “under control,” a spokesperson for Ukraine’s military said Tuesday.

“According to experts, this will certainly affect the operation [of the Zaporizhzhia NPP]. But there is no need to escalate the situation now and draw the most critical conclusions,” Ukraine’s southern command spokesperson Natalia Humeniuk said on national television.

“The situation is currently under control,” she added.

Earlier Tuesday, Andriy Yermak, head of the Ukrainian president’s office, stated on Tuesday that the dam’s destruction will “also pose a threat to the [Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant].”

The plant, the largest nuclear facility in Europe, has been occupied by Russian forces since the early days of the invasion last year.

The Nova Kakhovka dam is a critical piece of infrastructure, holding around 18 cubic kilometers in the Kakhovka Reservoir, about equal to the Great Salt Lake in the US state of Utah, according to Reuters.

The dam supplies water for much of southeastern Ukraine and the Crimean peninsula which was annexed by Russia in 2014.

“Crimea is indeed very dependent on water supply,” Humeniuk said Tuesday, adding, “I would like to ask whom they have made worse.”

Zelensky says destruction of dam shows Russians “must be expelled from every corner of Ukrainian land”

The destruction of the Nova Kakhovka dam confirms that Russians “must be expelled from every corner of Ukrainian land”, Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky said in a statement on his official Telegram Tuesday.

“Not a single meter should be left to them, because they use every meter for terror,” Zelensky said.

“It’s only Ukraine’s victory that will return security. And this victory will come. The terrorists will not be able to stop Ukraine with water, missiles or anything else,” he added.

Zelensky also confirmed he has convened a meeting of the National Security and Defense Council.

Zelensky praises Ukrainian troops fighting in east after claims of advances around Bakhmut

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky praised troops fighting around Bakhmut after officials claimed that units had retaken territory on the northern and southern flanks of the embattled eastern city.

“I am grateful to every warrior, to all our defenders, who provided us today with the news we have all been waiting for in the Bakhmut direction. Well done, warriors,” Zelenksy said in his nightly video address to the nation.

Earlier, Ukraine’s Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar claimed on Telegram that Ukraine was “carrying out offensive actions” along the eastern front line and had advanced some 200 to 1,600 meters around the settlements of Orikhovo-Vasylivka and Paraskoviivka to the north of Bakhmut, and some 100 to 700 meters around Ivanivske and Klishchiivka, which are southwest of the city.

EU restrictions on Ukraine grain imports extended to September 15

The European Union will extend to September 15 restrictions on imports of Ukrainian agricultural products imposed by five member states seeking to protect their farmers, the commission said in a statement.

The bloc will “phase out by 15 September” the measures affecting Ukrainian wheat, maize, rapeseed and sunflower seed that were adopted due to “logistical bottlenecks” in Bulgaria, Hungary, Poland, Romania and Slovakia, the commission added.

Ukrainian pilots selected to train on modern fighter jets in UK: Ukraine’s PM

Groups of Ukrainian pilots have been selected for training in the UK where they will learn to fly modern fighter jets, Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal stated.

In a post on Telegram, Shmyhal said that he had thanked British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly, who is visiting Kyiv, for, “his leadership in creating the ‘coalition of fighter jets’” that Ukraine is lobbying for – and for, “his commitment to train our pilots,” he said.

His Telegram post had earlier said the pilots were headed to the UK, but it was updated later in the day to say they had been selected for training there.

The UK does not have the US-made F-16 fighter jets that Ukraine wants but said after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s visit last month that it would give “cohorts of Ukrainian pilots… basic training” that they could “apply [to] a different kind of aircraft.”

US President Joe Biden gave his backing for Kyiv’s pilots to be trained on US-made F-16s at the G7 summit in Japan. The training has started in several EU countries, the bloc’s High Representative, Josep Borrell, told reporters last month.

Poland, Denmark and the Netherlands are among the countries that have said they will participate in the training.

Foreign minister says Ukraine has enough weapons for counteroffensive

Ukraine has enough weapons for its counteroffensive against Russia, and the operation will give the country the victory it needs to join NATO, Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba stated.

Membership of the military alliance would “probably” only be possible for Ukraine after the end of active hostilities, Kuleba said in an interview in Kyiv.

He did not say whether the counteroffensive had started when asked.

Ukrainian offensive taking place in several directions: DM

The Ukrainian offensive is “taking place in several directions,” Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar told Ukrainian television on Monday.

“It is not only about Bakhmut. The offensive is taking place in several directions. We are happy about every meter. Today is a successful day for our forces,” she stated.

Earlier, Maliar said on the Telegram messaging app that the country’s troops were “carrying out offensive actions” on the eastern front and had “advanced in several directions” around the city of Bakhmut: near the settlements of Orikhovo-Vasylivka and Paraskoviivka to the north, and near Ivanivske and Klishchiivka to the southwest.

Serhii Cherevatyi, spokesperson for the Eastern Grouping of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, also spoke of “an offensive assault” by the Ukrainians “on the southern and northern flanks of Bakhmut” on national TV on Monday.

“These actions were successful,” Cherevatyi noted, adding, “Despite the enemy’s fierce resistance, our airborne assault and mechanised units managed to advance along the Siverskyi Donets-Donbas Canal in the direction of Klishchiivka, Orikhovo-Vasylivka, Zaliznianske, and Bohdanivka to a distance of 300 meters to 1 kilometers in various parts of the front line.”

British foreign secretary says Ukraine can count on UK’s support while meeting Zelensky in Kyiv

The UK Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said, “Ukraine can count on the UK’s support” while meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in Kyiv on Monday, according to the UK foreign office.

Cleverly’s visit to the Ukrainian capital comes ahead of the Ukraine Recovery Conference in London late this month, focusing on re-building and bolstering the country’s economic outlook.

Monday’s trip is Cleverly’s second visit to Kyiv and the fourth meeting between UK senior ministers and President Zelensky in recent weeks. Cleverly also met with his Ukrainian counterpart, Dmytro Kuleba, on Monday to discuss how to best support Ukraine “from the battlefield to banking guarantees.”

Cleverly also met children who the foreign office say were forcibly deported to Russia.

“As Ukraine continues its sustained fightback against Russia, I was able to see for myself the true horrors and devastation of what Russia has wreaked on this sovereign state,” Cleverly said in a statement released by the foreign office.

“Forcibly deporting children, razing cities like Bakhmut, Izium and Mariupol to the ground and committing atrocities are not the acts of a responsible international state. They are the actions of a hostile regime that is in violation of the UN Charter,” Cleverly stated.

Zelensky thanked Cleverly for coming to Kyiv and for the “really big support what UK gave and giving, still giving and we hope will prolong this support to Ukraine.”

“And I want to thank for the last one, it is about opening possibility for training missions for our pilots on fighter jets and also the possibility to open discussion about coalition of Patriots. That is also really important. I am happy that all the leaders understood that during this period of time when we have such big escalation by attacking of different kind of rockets and during all this period when we don’t have fighter jets, we need really something to close the sky. And we understand the name of this something,” Zelensky said.

Russian reports about counteroffensive designed to divert attention from its own challenges: Ukraine

Ukraine’s Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar has said in a post on the Telegram messaging app that Russia was spreading information about a Ukrainian counteroffensive “to divert attention” from what she said were challenges the invading army faced around Bakhmut in the east.

In Bakhmut – which Maliar said “remained the epicentre” of the fighting – Ukraine is having some “success” as it takes over the “dominant heights” around the city, she claimed.

In her Telegram post, Maliar also added Ukrainian troops are “switching to offensive actions in some directions,” but framed that as part of Ukraine’s overall “defense operation” that began after Russia launched its attempt at a full-scale invasion in February last year.

“We are continuing the defence we started on February 24, 2022. The defense operation contains everything, including counteroffensive actions. Hence, we are switching to offensive actions in some directions,” she continued.

Earlier Monday, Maliar and other officials posted a social media video urging silence over any potential news of a counteroffensive.

Top US general says Ukraine is “well prepared” for its anticipated counteroffensive

While Ukraine is “very well prepared” for a counteroffensive against Russia, it is “too early to tell what outcomes are going to happen,” the top US general told CNN Monday.

“They’re in a war that’s an existential threat for the very survival of Ukraine and has greater meaning for the rest of the world — for Europe, really for the United States, but also for the globe,” Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley said in an in an exclusive interview with CNN in Normandy, France.

Milley, who is retiring this year, is in Normandy to commemorate the 79th anniversary of the 1944 D-Day invasion — a massive World War II operation — as the war continues to rage in Ukraine.

For months now, the US and its allies have been helping arm Ukraine for the counteroffensive.

Meanwhile, the war has also begun creeping into Russia, as suspected Ukrainian drone strikes hit inside Moscow and a shelling attack was carried out in Belgorod. Asked Monday if such attacks would risk escalating the conflict, Milley stated there is “always risk” of escalation, and it’s something the US is watching “very, very carefully.”

Russian air space is unlikely to reopen in near term: Airlines officials

Airlines CEOs at the International Air Transport Association Annual General meeting have told CNN that they don’t expect any changes to Russian airspace restrictions any time in the foreseeable future.

“The idea that we see Russian air space open in the near term, I don’t think that’s going to be possible so we’ll have to live with that. Airlines have had to adopt their schedule to recognize they are going to have to take a longer route between Europe and Asia and I think it will have some impact for some time,” Willie Walsh, Director General of IATA told CNN.

He added that for Russian air space to reopen, the war would have to end with peace in Ukraine.

Russian airspace bordering Ukraine has been closed to all commercial airlines since the start of the invasion.

Not being able to fly over Russia has made the journey from Europe to Asia two to three hours longer, AirFrance KLM CEO Benjamin Smith said.

“So a plane that could have been optimal before this war in Ukraine started may not be the case today,” he added.

When asked if he was writing off flying over Russia for the foreseeable future, he replied: “That is our assumption.”

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