Friday, June 21, 2024

Live Update: Russia’s “Special Operation” in Ukraine; Day 473

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:

Kakhovka dam collapse has made Black Sea a “garbage dump and animal cemetery”: Ukraine

Floodwaters are receding following the collapse of the Kakhovka dam, but debris washed along the Dnipro river is turning Odesa’s Black Sea coastline into “a garbage dump and animal cemetery,” according to Ukrainian authorities.

“A lot of mines, ammunition and other explosive objects are being carried into the sea and thrown onto the shoreline,” Ukraine’s Ministry of Internal Affairs said on its website, adding that border guards had observed a “plague of fish” in the area.

“The Dnipro river flows into the Black Sea, bearing many signs of the devastation caused by Russians,” the ministry said.

“The consequences of ecocide are terrible,” it added.

The collapse of the dam in southern Ukraine on June 6 is one of the biggest industrial and ecological disasters in Europe for decades.

The catastrophe has destroyed entire villages, flooded farmland, deprived tens of thousands of people of power and clean water, and caused massive environmental damage.

But it’s still impossible to say whether it collapsed because it was deliberately targeted as part of Russia’s war in Ukraine or whether the breach could have been caused by structural failure.

Several Western officials have blamed the collapse of the Russian-occupied dam on Moscow.

Russia seeing no foundation for peace talks with Ukraine

There are not conditions in place for Russia-Ukraine peace talks, with Moscow not seeing even “flimsy” grounds to build dialogue upon, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Sunday.

“As a matter of fact, now there are no premises for agreements. Moreover, now there is no foundation, even a flimsy one, in order to build at least some kind of a dialogue,” Peskov told a weekly show on Russian channel.

Moscow believes that the lack of openness to negotiations on Kiev’s part is a combination of three factors including its unwillingness, unpreparedness and not being allowed to by its Western sponsors, he added.

Trump: US left without ammunition due to military assistance to Ukraine

Former US President Donald Trump said on Saturday that military assistance to Ukraine had led to the depletion of US ammunition stocks.

“Right now, we don’t have any ammunition. Ukraine has the ammunition, all of it just about,” Trump said, speaking to Republicans in the state of Georgia.

Trump noted that the United States during his presidency “had so much ammunition” and now “we have very little ammunition to protect ourselves.”

The former president also promised to achieve peace in the conflict between Russia and Ukraine within 24 hours if he is reelected to the presidency next year.

Trump added that he is “the only candidate who can make this promise,” claiming he would prevent World War III.

Zelensky gives strongest indication yet that Ukraine’s counteroffensive is underway

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has given his clearest indication yet that his military’s long-awaited push to liberate territory held by Russia’s occupying forces is underway, saying “relevant counteroffensive defensive actions are taking place in Ukraine.”

Speaking in Kyiv Saturday, the Ukrainian leader was asked to respond to comments by his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin, who claimed Friday that the Ukrainian counteroffensive has certainly begun — and was not finding success.

Zelensky shrugged off Putin’s suggestions that Ukraine’s armed forces were struggling and sought to apply some psychological pressure of his own.

“It is interesting that Putin was talking about our counteroffensive,” Zelensky stated in response, adding, “It is important that Russia feels (the counteroffensive), feels that they do not have much time left.”

Zelensky said “relevant counteroffensive defensive actions are taking place in Ukraine,” but said he “will not give any details about the stage it is at.”

After spending most of the winter embroiled in fighting around the eastern city of Bakhmut, as well as training its soldiers and waiting for the arrival of Western military aid, like tanks and longer-range strike weapons, the last few weeks have seen Ukraine clearly step up military activities.

These have included shaping operations – strikes on targets far behind front lines, like fuel depots and soldiers’ barracks. And more recently, Ukraine’s military has conducted probing operations, designed to test the enemy’s weak spots as well as its combat readiness.

However, it is still far from clear that Ukraine has begun moving large numbers of ground forces forward in an attempt to recapture the swathes of territory held by Russian occupying forces.

Canada says it will give seized Russian aircraft to Ukraine

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Saturday promised to hand over a seized An-124 Russian cargo jet to Ukraine.

“Today, through the legislation we passed, we are confiscating this aircraft that was owned by Russia and we are beginning the process of transferring this asset to Ukraine so that it will never again be used by Russia in support of war,” Trudeau said during his visit to Kyiv.

According to Russian state news agency TASS, the transport aircraft belonging to a Russian airline, arrived in Toronto on February 27 of last year carrying a shipment of Covid tests from China. The aircraft, which was chartered by the Canadian government, arrived two hours before authorities of the North American country closed the sky to Russian flights because of the situation in Ukraine.

The plane has remained in Canada, and will now go to the country where Moscow has been waging a war for over a year since.

Oleg Stepanov, the Russian ambassador to Canada, called the country’s decision to hand the seized plane over to Ukraine “illegal” and “common theft” in an interview with TASS Saturday.

During his visit, Trudeau also announced new sanctions against several individuals and companies that are contributing to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“So far, Canada has imposed sanctions on more than 2,500 organizations and individuals,” the prime minister stated, adding, “And today we are announcing new sanctions against 24 individuals and 17 organizations as part of special economic measures for Ukraine.”

Trudeau announces Canada will join efforts to train Ukrainian fighter pilots

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced during a visit to Kyiv Saturday that Canada will be part of multinational efforts to train Ukraine’s fighter pilots.

During a joint news conference with Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky, Trudeau said the country will help “maintain and support Ukraine’s fighter jet program, leveraging Canadian expertise in these areas.”

Trudeau also announced that Canada will contribute to an initiative for the maintenance of Leopard battle tanks that Ukraine’s allies have provided to Kyiv.

“We will provide an additional 287 AIM-7 missiles, which will support Ukraine in its efforts to defend Ukrainian skies,” he added, referring to a type of medium-range air-to-air missile.

“And from existing funds, we will provide 10,000 rounds of 105-millimeter ammunition to the Ukraine security forces,” he continued.

Trudeau said an additional $500 million is being allocated as military funding.

The Canadian prime minister also commented on the disastrous flooding following a break in southern Ukraine’s Nova Kakhovka dam.

“There is absolutely no doubt in our mind, that the destruction of the dam was the direct consequence of Russia’s decision to invade a peaceful neighbor,” he said.

“Russia’s war in Ukraine has devastated infrastructure, has destroyed families and taken lives, and is causing economic, food, energy shortages around the world. Russia is responsible and will be held to account,” Trudeau added.

He also announced the provision of $10 million Canadian (around $7.46 million USD) to help flooding victims.

During their meeting in Kyiv on Saturday, the two leaders also adopted a declaration in which Canada supports Ukraine’s accession to NATO as soon as circumstances allow.

“Canada supports Ukraine to become a NATO member as soon as conditions allow for it. Ukraine and Canada look forward to addressing these issues at the NATO Summit in Vilnius in July 2023,” according to the text of the declaration.

Zelensky has previously stated he understands his country cannot become a member of NATO while it is still at war.

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