Saturday, June 22, 2024

Live Update: Russia’s “Special Operation” in Ukraine; Day 481

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:

NATO won’t formally invite Ukraine to its July summit

NATO will not issue a formal invitation to Ukraine to join the military alliance during a high-profile summit in the Lithuanian capital, Vilnius, in July, NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said Monday.

“At the Vilnius summit and in the preparations for the summit, we’re not discussing to issue a formal invitation. What we are discussing is how to move Ukraine closer to NATO,” Stoltenberg told journalists during a joint press conference alongside German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in Berlin.

The secretary general added that although consultations are ongoing regarding Ukraine’s bid to join NATO, he is “not in a position to pre-empt the outcome of these consultations.”

“What I can say is that the Allies actually already agree on a lot,” Stoltenberg remarked, referencing NATO’s membership invitations to Finland and Sweden as an example.

“We also agree on what we stated in 2008 that Ukraine will become a member of the alliance. We also agree that is not for Russia, but for Ukraine and NATO allies, to decide when the time is right to invite Ukraine,” Stoltenberg added.

Ukraine’s leader, Volodymyr Zelensky, has pressed Stoltenberg on previous occasions to commit to a timeframe for Ukraine’s membership bid.

During a visit to Moldova in early June, Zelensky stressed that Ukraine “is ready to be in NATO and is merely “waiting [for] when NATO will be ready.”

China has assured US it will not provide lethal aid to Russia: Top US diplomat

China has assured that it has not and will not provide lethal aid to Russia, but the United States remains concerned that Chinese companies may do so, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Monday.

Blinked stated that the assurance is appreciated and there is no evidence to contradict them.

“What we do have ongoing concerns about, though, are Chinese firms — companies that may be providing technology that Russia can use to advance its aggression in Ukraine. And we’ve asked the Chinese government to be very vigilant about that,” Blinken added.

UK to uphold sanctions until Moscow pays compensation to Kyiv

Britain introduced new legislation to maintain Russian sanctions until Moscow pays compensation to Ukraine, the British foreign ministry says.

“As Ukraine continues to defend itself against Russia’s invasion, the terrible impacts of Putin’s war are clear. Ukraine’s reconstruction needs are – and will be – immense,” British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly stated.

“Through our new measures today, we’re strengthening the UK’s sanctions approach, affirming that the UK is prepared to use sanctions to ensure Russia pays to repair the country it has so recklessly attacked,” he added.

Moscow declines UN offer to help due to security concerns: Kremlin

The Kremlin says Moscow’s decision to decline United Nations help in areas flooded by the Kakhovka dam breach is due to security concerns and “other nuances”.

On Sunday, the UN said Russia had declined its offers of help as the death toll rises.

The dam’s collapse on June 6 unleashed floodwaters across southern Ukraine and Russian-controlled parts of the Kherson region, destroying homes and cutting off supplies to residents.

Ukraine has recaptured 8 southern settlements in past 2 weeks: Deputy DM

Ukraine’s military has recaptured eight settlements from invading Russian forces in the south of the country over the past two weeks, Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar said Monday.

In a Telegram post, Maliar said offensive operations in the Berdiansk and Melitopol directions in the Zaporizhzhia region had liberated the communities of Novodarivka, Levadne, Storozheve, Makarivka, Blahodatne, Lobkove, Neskuchne and Piatykhatky,

The status of Piatykhatky had been in dispute Sunday after the Russian government denied a report from its own installed leader in occupied southern Ukraine, refuting his claim that Kyiv’s forces had retaken the village.

On Monday, Maliar stated Ukrainian forces had advanced 7 kilometers (4 miles) into Russian-occupied territory in the southern Tavria sector, reclaiming an area spanning 113 square kilometers (44 square miles).

She praised “the professionalism and courage” of Ukrainian soldiers for the advances in the frontline.

“Last week, our troops were both on the offensive and on the defense,” she added.

In eastern Ukraine, Maliar said Russian forces launched more than 5,800 attacks and used more than 277,000 munitions over the past week. Russian troops had been more active against a Ukrainian advance near Bakhmut and Lyman-Kupyansk, Avdiivka and Mariinka, she added.

Seven injured in Ukrainian shelling of Russia’s Belgorod: Governor

Seven civilians, including a child, were injured in Ukrainian shelling of the Valuyki town area in Russia’s Belgorod border region overnight, its governor has said.

Five multistorey buildings and four houses were damaged, with one building on fire, Vyacheslav Gladkov said.

Separately, Roman Starovoyt, the governor of the Kursk region, north of Belgorod and also bordering Ukraine, said Ukrainian forces shelled two villages there. There were no casualties, according to preliminary information.

UN condemns Russia for blocking aid access to occupied areas hit by dam collapse

The United Nations condemned Russia on Sunday for denying humanitarian aid access to Russian-occupied areas affected by the Nova Kakhovka dam that collapsed earlier this month.

“The UN has been engaging with the governments of Ukraine and the Russian Federation regarding effective delivery of humanitarian aid to all people affected by the devastating destruction of the Kakhovka Dam,” the statement by Denise Brown, a humanitarian coordinator for Ukraine said, adding that Russia had so far declined the UN’s request to access the areas under its occupation.

The UN urged the Russian authorities “to act in accordance with their obligations under international humanitarian law” and that the UN will continue to seek the necessary access to the Russian-occupied affected areas.

The death toll in the major dam collapse has risen to at least 45 people, officials said Sunday. The flood also carried filthy water downstream and off the southern coast, posing serious health risks.

Last week, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called for international support to help rescue victims of the dam collapse in Russian-occupied areas of Ukraine and accused Russia of not providing “any real help to the people in the flooded areas.”

“In the occupied territory, it is only possible to help people in some areas — Russian terrorists are doing everything to make the victims of the disaster as many as possible,” Zelensky said last week.

Russian-backed officials in occupied parts of Ukraine have said the government will provide “maximum” support to the areas affected, and that humanitarian aid was being distributed. On Thursday, Andrey Alekseenko, the Russian-backed head of the Kherson regional government, said humanitarian aid and monetary compensation were being given out in affected areas.

South Africa leader hails ‘impactful’ meetings with Putin, Zelensky

An African peace mission on the Ukraine war that failed to spark enthusiasm from either Moscow or Kyiv was still impactful, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa says.

A day after the delegation visited St Petersburg, Russian news agencies quoted Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov as saying that President Vladimir Putin showed interest in the 10-point plan presented by African leaders, but it would be “difficult to realise”.

In Kyiv the previous day, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky told the African delegation – the first since the start of the war to hold separate face-to-face talks with both leaders on their peace initiative – that allowing negotiations now would just “freeze the war” and the suffering of the Ukrainian people.

However, Ramaphosa cast the trip to Ukraine and Russia in a positive light, tweeting on Sunday: “[The] Africa Peace Initiative has been impactful and its ultimate success will be measured on the objective, which is stopping the war.”

He added the Africans would keep talking to Putin and Zelenskyy, and would brief United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on their efforts so far.

Zelensky says most intense fighting is happening on southern front

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky says the toughest fighting is taking place on Ukraine’s southern front, and he praised Kyiv’s forces for holding off Russian assaults in the east.

Zelensky made the comments in his daily address Sunday, saying Ukrainian troops are “advancing, position by position, step by step” and “are moving forward.”

The opening stages of Kyiv’s counteroffensive have been marked by probing attacks — seemingly testing the Russian lines of defense — and modest gains, but no apparent major breakthroughs.

Russian troops “continue to focus their main efforts on the Lyman, Bakhmut, Avdiivka and Marinka directions,” the Ukrainian military’s General Staff said Sunday, referring to a series of eastern Ukrainian frontline cities stretching from north to south.

“Heavy fighting continues,” it added.

Zelensky stated that not a single US Patriot air defense system has been destroyed in Ukraine, and that nearly three dozen missiles and about 50 attack drones were destroyed over the past week. He also added the Ukrainian Air Force carried out more than 100 strikes on enemy positions over the past week.

The Russian defense ministry said in its daily report Sunday that “the Armed Forces of Ukraine are most actively advancing in the (southern) Zaporizhzhia direction, with forces of up to 3 battalion groups, reinforced with tanks and armored combat vehicles.”

A Russia-backed official said earlier Sunday that Ukraine has retaken a village near Zaporizhzhia city. Moscow denies the report, saying troops repelled attacks there.

Russian forces also repelled eight Ukrainian army attacks in various settlements east and northeast of Donetsk city, the defense ministry claimed in its report.

Authorities in Ukraine’s southern Mykolaiv region warn of contaminated water

Mykolaiv health authorities have urged residents to refrain from using water in the southern region for drinking, and warned not to swim or fish, after contaminants were discovered.

The warning, issued Sunday, comes after authorities in the Odesa region also closed beaches for health reasons.

The devastating Kakhovka dam collapse and subsequent flooding in southern Ukraine has turned the Dnipro River and Black Sea coastline into “a garbage dump and animal cemetery,” according to Ukrainian authorities.

Now cholera-like vibrio has been detected in open waters of the Mykolaiv region, the Regional Centre for Disease Control and Prevention posted on its official Facebook page Sunday. The discovery means the water could potentially cause acute intestinal infections, local authorities said.

The Disease Control Centre also warned of high ammonia levels.

In neighboring Odesa, authorities have closed off beaches because poor water quality poses a “genuine threat” to local residents.

Odesa’s sandy beaches and holiday resorts were once packed with Ukrainian and foreign visitors before the war hit. The beaches have been largely abandoned by swimmers in recent months, as mines from the war with Russia wash on to the shoreline. That situation has only worsened in the wake of the dam collapse.

The Nova Kakhovka dam in southern Ukraine collapsed on June 6. Both Ukrainian and Russian officials blame an explosion from the opposing side for causing the breach.

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