Thursday, June 13, 2024

Live Update: Russia’s “Special Operation” in Ukraine; Day 483

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:

DM: ‘Collective West’ waging a ‘real war’ against Russia

Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said that that the “collective West” was waging a “real war” against Russia.

Speaking alongside President Vladimir Putin at an event in the Kremlin for graduating military academy students, Shoigu added that the Russia military would do everything to ensure the security of the country.

Counteroffensive ‘slower than desired’: Zelensky

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky told the BBC that Kyiv’s counteroffensive has been “slower than desired”.

In an interview, he told the British broadcaster, “Some people believe this is a Hollywood movie and expect results now. It’s not.”

“Whatever some might want, including attempts to pressure us, with all due respect, we will advance on the battlefield the way we deem best,” he added.

Since the counteroffensive began two weeks ago, Ukraine has reported recapturing eight villages in the south.

But Ukrainian troops are yet to reach the heaviest Russian defensive fortifications, which are set back from the 1,000km (600-mile) long front line.

Russia will continue improving its armed forces: Putin

Russia will continue improving its armed forces based on the “invaluable” experience gained in its “special military operation” — a term Russian officials and leaders use to refer to the invasion — in Ukraine, President Vladimir Putin stated Wednesday.

“The most important task here is the development of the nuclear triad, which is a key guarantee of Russia’s military security and global stability. Already about half of the units and formations of the Strategic Missile Forces are equipped with the latest Yars complexes,” he said during an address to graduates from Russia’s military academies in the Kremlin.

“The troops are being re-equipped with modern missile systems with a hypersonic avant-garde warhead. In the near future, the first launchers of the Sarmat complex with a new heavy missile will take up combat duty,” he added.

Putin met with graduates of universities and academies of the Ministry of Defense, the Ministry of Emergencies, the Federal Security Service, the Federal Protection Service, the Russian Guard, the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the Investigative Committee and the Federal Penitentiary Service, according to the Kremlin.

Dislodged mines could end up on Black Sea beaches: UN

A UN official says mines dislodged by the Kakhovka dam breach could float downstream and end up on the beaches of the Black Sea.

Head of UN Mine Action at the United Nations Development Programme in Ukraine, Paul Heslop, told reporters in Geneva that PMF-1 mines, also known as “butterfly” mines, were light enough to float downstream for a large distance.

“I would not be surprised to see that those mines have either got down as far as the sea or over the coming months, as the water is continuing to flow, will be transported down there,” he said, adding, “Unfortunately, we could see anti-personnel pressure mines washing up on beaches around the Black Sea.”

Henslop stated heavier anti-tank mines were less likely to float long distances.

On June 6, an explosion at the Kakhovka dam unleashed floodwaters across the Kherson region, killing over 50 people and destroying homes and farmland.

Ukraine needs $6.1bn in the next 12 months to recover: PM

Ukraine needs over $6 bn more in the next 12 months to help recover from Russia’s war, Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal said.

“We still need another $6.125 bn,” he told the Ukraine Recovery Conference in London.

“We have set an ambitious goal of securing pledges for this amount as a result of this conference,” he added.

“Real projects” needed for Ukraine’s recovery: Zelensky

Ukraine needs “real projects” to aid its recovery and reconstruction, President Volodymyr Zelensky said Wednesday.

Speaking at the Ukraine Recovery Conference in London by video link, he told the donor conference “we must move from vision to agreements, and from agreements to real projects.”

Zelensky stated that the Ukrainian delegation in London – led by Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal – would “present concrete things that we propose to do together during my [Zelensky’s] term” in office.

The two-day donor conference is being held in the UK capital.

Representatives of more than 60 states, 30 international organizations and 400 businesses are in attendance, British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said as he opened the conference on Wednesday.

In April, Zelensky told a World Bank forum that it would take “hundreds of billions of dollars” to rebuild his country.

US to send $1.3 billion more aid to Ukraine: Blinken

The United States will send an additional $1.3 billion in financial assistance to Ukraine, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced Wednesday.

Speaking at the Ukraine Recovery Conference in London, he said the support will “overhaul its energy grid” and modernize other critical infrastructure.

“Recovery is about laying the foundation for Ukraine to thrive as a secure, independent country, fully integrated with Europe, connected to markets around the world,” Blinken stated.

Breaking down the financial aid, Blinken outlined how $657 million will help modernize Ukraine’s rail lines, ports and other critical infrastructure, $100 million will be used to help digitize national systems “to boost speed and to cut corruption” and $35 million will go to Ukrainian businesses.

More than $520 million of the total amount will go toward helping Ukraine “overhaul its energy grid,” Blinken added.

This comes after the UK also announced additional financial aid, including a $305 million of bilateral assistance and up to $318 in an expansion of British International Investment in Ukraine.

Among the businesses pledging their support at the two-day conference are are Virgin, Sanofi, Philips, Hyundai Engineering and Citi.

European Union has “special responsibility” toward Ukraine: European Commission president

The European Union has a “special responsibility” toward Ukraine, the European Commission president told a two-day donor conference Wednesday.

Speaking to more than 400 companies from 38 countries, Ursula von der Leyen told the conference that “we need the private sector to step in” to invest in Ukraine.

She also highlighted a proposal by the European Commission on Tuesday for a four-year financial assistance package for Ukraine, which she said would be financed with grants from the European budget, loans raised on capital markets and, eventually, with “proceeds from the immobilized Russian assets.”

Speaking at the Ukraine Recovery Conference in London, von der Leyen said the Commission would make a proposal regarding these Russian assets “before the summer break, because the perpetrator must be held accountable.”

Von der Leyen added that she had “no doubt … [Ukraine] will be part of our union.”

Ukraine’s fiscal gap is about 60 billion euros ($65.5 billion), von der Leyen said, adding that she had proposed to EU member states that they “cover 45% of this gap – this is in total 50 billion euros ($54.6 billion) for Ukraine.”

UK PM announces new war risk framework to help Ukraine rebuild

UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announced a new framework for war risk insurance in a speech to the Ukraine Recovery Conference in London on Wednesday.

“This is a huge step forward towards helping insurers to underwrite investments into Ukraine, removing one of the biggest barriers and giving investors the confidence they need to act,” Sunak said.

Sunak also added in his speech that Russia should pay for “the destruction they have inflicted” in Ukraine.

The UK prime minister went on to praise Ukraine’s “incredible spirit” and said the war, which “brought a 29% fall in Ukraine’s GDP last year,” had “only proved how much Ukraine has to offer.”

‘No grounds’ to extend grain deal: Kremlin

The Kremlin reiterated that there are “no grounds” to extend the Black Sea grain deal, adding that the agreement was not being properly implemented.

On a call with reporters, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the UN had been forced to acknowledge that “unfortunately, they are not managing to exert the necessary influence on the countries of the collective West in order to fulfil this Russian part of the agreement”.

Peskov was referring to a list of Russian demands, including removing what Moscow says are obstacles to exporting its grain and fertilisers.

Turkey should begin ratifying Sweden’s NATO bid: Minister

Swedish Foreign Minister Tobias Billstrom says Turkey’s parliament should begin to ratify Stockholm’s bid to join NATO as it has met its obligations to join the military alliance.

“Our judgement is that we have done what was expected of us, now it is time for the Turkish parliament to start the ratification process,” Billstrom told the Reuters news agency on the sidelines of a meeting in parliament.

Billstrom added that Sweden remains hopeful that it will be able to join by the time of NATO’s summit in Vilnius in mid-July, adding that it had no “Plan B”.

Last year Sweden and Finland both applied to join NATO following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

While Finland joined NATO in April, Turkey and Hungary are blocking Sweden’s membership citing security concerns.

Ukraine says military ‘gaining ground’ near Melitopol and Berdyansk

Ukrainian forces are gaining some ground towards Melitopol and Berdyansk in the Zaporizhzhia region, Andriy Kovalev, spokesperson for the General Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, has said.

“They had partial success, they are gaining ground,” Kovalev was quoted as saying in a post on Ukraine’s Military Media Center’s Telegram channel, adding that the gains were near the settlements of Mala Tokmachka and Robotyne, among others.

Ukraine continues to hold back the advance of Russian troops in the east of the country, with “especially heavy fighting” taking place near the city of Lyman in the Donetsk region, he added.

Three drones downed in Moscow region: Russian defence ministry

Russian air defences have downed three drones in the Moscow region, the defence ministry says, in what it calls an attempted Ukrainian attack.

The ministry announced that Russian defences had used electronic jamming to cause the drones to lose control and crash, without causing any casualties or damage.

Moscow regional governor Andrei Vorobyov had previously stated two drones were intercepted as they approached military warehouses.

Zelensky says Ukraine forces ‘destroying enemy’ in east, south

President Volodymyr Zelensky said that Ukraine’s forces were destroying Russian forces in the two main theatres of the conflict, the east and south of the country.

“At this time, our soldiers in the south and east are actively destroying the enemy, physically cleansing Ukraine,” Zelensky stated in his nightly video message.

“A defence against terror means destroying terrorists. And it is a guarantee that the state of evil will never have the opportunity to bring evil to Ukraine,” he added.

Referring to a conference to take place in London on post-war recovery, Zelenskyy said rebuilding Ukraine was “a vehicle and a guarantee of security” and a means of “protecting against any repetition of Russian aggression.”

US blames Russia’s war on Ukraine for ‘record-breaking’ increase in number of refugees

The United States envoy to the United Nations has blamed Russia for a “record-breaking” increase in the number of refugees due to its war in Ukraine.

“President Vladimir Putin’s unjustifiable war in Ukraine is primarily responsible for the record-breaking increase in the number of refugees,” said Linda Thomas Greenfield in a statement on World Refugee Day.

“The destruction of the Kakhovka dam two weeks ago in Ukraine’s Kherson Region has placed countless more in urgent need,” she continued.

As the fighting in Sudan continues to trigger massive movements of people, the world is facing an “unprecedented” global displacement crisis as war, conflict, disasters and political instability are forcing record numbers of people to flee their homes, Greenfield added.

European Union proposes $55 billion financial aid package for Ukraine

The European Union proposed a four-year financial assistance package for Ukraine worth $55 billion, the union’s commission president said in a news conference Tuesday.

The assistance will be administered through loans and grants, EU President Ursula von der Leyen said. It aims to provide Ukraine with “perspective and predictability” as well as “incentivize other donors to step up” their support.

“It will allow us to calibrate our financial support according to the evolution of the situation on the ground because we all know that a war requires at most flexibility from us,” von der Leyen noted.

Norway, which is not part of the European Union, also recently announced it will allocate funds for Ukraine.

In a news release, the Norwegian Foreign Ministry said Oslo will provide 250 million Norwegian kroner (approximately $23 million) for Ukraine’s “nuclear safety and security.” And around $9.3 million will be provided to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), “to ensure that IAEA experts can maintain a presence in Ukraine.”

Norway is also increasing funding for “nuclear safety and security cooperation” with Ukraine by $14 million. The funding will be administered by the Norwegian Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority (DSA) and will be used “to reduce the risk of radiological incidents.”

Ukraine’s “main strike is still ahead”: Deputy DM

Ukraine’s Deputy Minister of Defense said on Tuesday that Ukrainian forces “are gnawing our way meter by meter” to advance, also noting that the main strike of the counteroffensive “is still ahead.”

“There are some directions, where we advance and the enemy is on defensive, but also on some axis, the enemy is trying to conduct offensive, while we are on defensive. We gradually advance step by step. So one can say we are gnawing our way meter by meter,” Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar stated in an interview with Ukrainian media.

“The tasks that are being given to the military are being fulfilled, so the gradual advance in all directions, where the offensive began is taking place,” Maliar continued, adding, “However, the main strike is still ahead.”

Maliar said that Ukraine’s offensive is ongoing in several directions in the south; meanwhile, she claimed that Russia’s main offensive is in the east.

The Secretary of Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council, Oleksii Danilov, stated on Tuesday that one of Ukraine’s main priorities right now is “to exhaust” and destroy Russian artillery and armament systems.

“The destruction of the Russian control points, ammunition storages, fuel, food products, supply routes – these tasks are being performed by the Ukrainian defenders excellently. The number of destroyed Russian military equipment is the highest since the beginning of the war,” Danilov said in a social media post.

EU leaders to call on China to help stop Ukraine war: Official

EU leaders plan to call on China next week to help bring an end to the war in Ukraine, engage in global challenges, such as climate change, and rebalance its economic relations with the EU, a senior EU official has said, according to the Reuters news agency.

EU leaders will meet for a summit in Brussels on June 29-30 with China and economic security among the main topics. The call to China is set out in draft conclusions prepared ahead of the summit and could still change.

The official said the draft conclusions were in line with the Group of Seven (G7) declaration from May but with more specific EU-China issues, such as rebalancing the economic relationship and the need for reciprocity.

Kakhovka dam destruction causes $1.3bn in damage: Ukraine

The breach of the Nova Kakhovka hydroelectric dam has caused 1.2 billion euros ($1.3bn) of damage, Ukraine’s environment minister says, warning that mines unearthed by flooding could wash onto other European countries’ shores.

Speaking by video link to a meeting of EU environment ministers, Ruslan Strilets stated assessment of the damage was ongoing but the dam collapse was already the largest environmental disaster since Russia’s February 2022 invasion.

‘Ukraine’s counteroffensive needs to be as effective as possible’: Macron

French President Emmanuel Macron reaffirms Europe’s support to Ukraine, in light of Kyiv’s counteroffensive.

Speaking alongside Italian Prime Minister Georgia Meloni in Paris, he said that “Ukraine’s counteroffensive needs to be as effective as possible.”

‘Let NATO fight if it doesn’t want to freeze the conflict in Ukraine’: Lavrov

Russian Foreign minister Sergey Lavrov says that if NATO opposes freezing the conflict in Ukraine, then the military alliance can continue fighting, according to a report from Russia’s state-owned TASS news agency.

“If NATO, through the mouth of Stoltenbeg [the military alliance’s chief], once again declares that they are against freezing, as they say, the conflict in Ukraine, then they want to fight. Well, let them fight,” Lavrov told journalists in Minsk.

“We have long understood the goals of NATO in the situation around Ukraine. These goals were formed for many years after the coup. Now, NATO is trying to implement them,” he added.

On Monday, at a joint news conference with the German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, NATO’s secretary general Jens Stoltenberg had said, “We all want this war to end. But a just peace cannot mean freezing the conflict and accepting a deal dictated by Russia.”

German chancellor asked China to use ties with Moscow to end war in Ukraine

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said he called on Beijing to use its influence on Russia to halt Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

“Now it is important to avoid a frozen conflict,” Scholz said during a joint press conference with China’s premier Li Qiang on Tuesday in Berlin.

“It is important that China continues not to supply weapons to the aggressor,” Scholz said, adding that a ban of nuclear weapons was important.

Earlier this year, Western officials flagged concerns that Beijing could be considering bolstering Russia’s military with lethal aid, an allegation refuted by Chinese officials.

Scholz and Li will continue the bilateral government consultations Tuesday afternoon with German Economy Minister Robert Habeck and Zheng Shanjie, China’s chairman of the National Development and Reform Commission at the economic forum.

In 2022, China was Germany’s most important trading partner for the seventh time, according to the Federal Statistical Office.

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