Live Update: Russia’s “Special Operation” in Ukraine; Day 479

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:

Biden doesn’t think it should be made easier for Ukraine to join NATO

US President Joe Biden does not believe that it should be made easier for Ukraine to join NATO, as Kiev has to meet the mandatory standards of becoming a member of the alliance, according to Biden’s statement released by the White House press pool on Saturday.

When Biden was asked if he was “going to make it easier for Ukraine to join NATO,” he said, “No. Because they’ve got to meet the same standards. So we’re not going to make it easy.”

Leaders of 6 African countries arrive in Russia as part of peace mission

The leaders of six African countries have arrived in the Russian city of St Petersburg as part of a peace mission, according to Russian state media TASS.

The leaders of South Africa, Zambia, the Comoros, Congo Brazzaville, Egypt, Senegal, and Uganda are set to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The leaders previously met with Ukraine’s President, Volodymyr Zelensky, on Friday in Ukraine, as part of a peace mission to both countries.

Rebuffing their efforts to bring Kyiv to the negotiating table, Zelensky ruled out any peace negotiations with Russia in a press conference after their meeting.

“Today, I have clearly said repeatedly at our meeting that to allow any negotiations with Russia now that the occupier is on our land means to freeze the war, to freeze pain and suffering,” he told journalists.

On their arrival in Kyiv, the African leaders were greeted with explosions and forced to take shelter in bunkers as Russian air strikes hit the capital.

Blinken: US closely monitoring Russia-Belarus situation but has “no reason to adjust” its nuclear posture

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that President Joe Biden’s administration is closely monitoring the situation between Russia and Belarus after President Vladimir Putin claimed Friday that Moscow has deployed tactical nuclear weapons to the neighboring country.

The US has “no reason to adjust” its nuclear posture and doesn’t “see any indications” that Russia is preparing to use a nuclear weapon, Blinken said at a news conference Friday with Singapore’s Foreign Affairs Minister Vivian Balakrishnan at the State Department.

Blinken added the US remains committed to defending “every inch” of NATO territory.

“And as for Belarus itself, this is just another example of (Belarus President Alexander) Lukashenko making irresponsible, provocative choices to cede control of Belarus’s sovereignty against the will of the Belarusian people,” he continued.

What Russia and Belarus are saying: In remarks during an economic forum in St. Petersburg, Putin alleged earlier that the tactical nuclear weapons to be stored in Belarus have arrived.

His comments came after Russian state media TASS reported that the country’s main investigative authority had opened an office in Belarus in connection to a delivery of tactile nuclear weapons.

The Russian president also slammed NATO and warned that there is “serious danger of further drawing” the alliance into the military conflict by supplying military weaponry to Ukraine.

Belarus is one of Russia’s few allies in its war on Ukraine. It helped Russia launch its invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, allowing the Kremlin’s troops to enter the country from its territory.

Earlier this week, Belarusian President Aleksander Lukashenko said the country was set to receive the tactical nuclear weapons from Russia and claimed such weapons are needed to act as a “deterrent” against aggression.

Zelensky: There will be no negotiations until Russian forces withdraw from all occupied Ukrainian land

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky stated that any peace talks with Russia are possible only after the complete withdrawal of Russian troops from occupied territories.

“Today, I have clearly said repeatedly at our meeting that to allow any negotiations with Russia now that the occupier is on our land means to freeze the war, to freeze pain and suffering,” Zelensky said at a news conference after meeting with several African leaders in Kyiv.

“It is obvious that Russia is now trying to return to its old primitive tactics of deception. But fooling the world in Russia will no longer work. It is definitely impossible to deceive Ukraine. I emphasize once again: We need real peace, and therefore, a real withdrawal of Russian troops from our entire independent land,” he added.

Zelensky appeared to be at odds with the South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, who stood alongside him at the news conference and called for a de-escalation of the conflict.

Ramaphosa said “there must be de-escalation on both sides so that peace can find a way to resolve the problem.”

Zelensky noted he and the African leaders had also discussed the Black Sea grain deal, which is crucial for food security around the globe. Ukraine is one of the world’s leading grain exporters.

“We really help the world and precisely many peoples of Africa, Asia, Europe to maintain social stability and price predictability in the food market through our exports. Together with partners, we are working on grain hubs in Africa,” Zelensky added.

In May, the grain deal was extended for two months in an agreement brokered by Turkey and the United Nations.

“The food supply must be reliably guaranteed and everyone’s right to food must be ensured by stopping any attempts by states such as Russia to use the threat of hunger and social instability to blackmail the people,” he continued.

South African leader calls for de-escalation of Ukraine conflict after meeting with Zelensky in Kyiv

African countries are prepared to participate further in a peace pact in Ukraine, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said on Friday after meeting with African leaders and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in Kyiv.

“There must be a de-escalation of the conflict,” Ramaphosa said while outlining a 10-step peace initiative several African countries have agreed to participate in.

“And we argue that there must be de-escalation on both sides so that peace can find a way to resolve the problem,” he added.

Speaking alongside other African leaders and Zelensky, Ramaphosa called for diplomatic negotiations to take place, adding that he was listening to Zelensky today and will be hearing from Russian President Vladimir Putin tomorrow in St. Petersburg.

“There should be peace through negotiations and diplomatic means,” he said.

“And we should as we advance towards that peace because all wars, in the end, come to an end. I really believe that this war should be brought to an end as quickly as possible,” he continued.

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