Thursday, May 30, 2024

Live Update: Russia’s “Special Operation” in Ukraine; Day 485

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:

Ukraine expects ‘clear’ signal about NATO future: Minister

Ukrainian Defence Minister Oleksii Reznikov says he expects Kyiv to receive a clear signal and “formula” to become a NATO member when the alliance meets next month.

“I expect them to give us a clear, understandable signal and formula for us, obviously, to become a NATO member,” Reznikov was quoted as saying by Ukraine’s military press centre.

The NATO summit is set to take place on July 11-12 in Lithuania.

President Volodymyr Zelensky has repeatedly pushed for Ukraine to join the alliance but has said he understands it will be difficult while the war rages on.

Ukraine’s NATO allies remain divided about how fast Kyiv should join, as some Western governments are wary of any move that might take the alliance closer to war with Russia.

EU fund that bankrolls Ukraine arms to get 3.5bn euro boost

European Union foreign ministers will approve a boost of 3.5bn euros ($3.81bn) to a military aid fund used to bankroll weapons and ammunition for Ukraine, officials have said.

The ministers are expected to raise the financial ceiling on the European Peace Facility (EPF) – a fund that has already allocated some 5.6bn euros in military aid for Ukraine – at a meeting in Luxembourg on Monday.

However, Hungary continues to block the allocation of another 500m-euro tranche of the fund for Ukraine, according to officials.

Budapest has said it will not lift its block until Kyiv removes Hungarian bank OTP from a list of companies it deems “international sponsors” of Russia’s war in Ukraine. Hungary has branded the bank’s inclusion “scandalous”.

“On Monday, a decision will be taken to top up the European Peace Facility by 3.5 billion euros,” said a senior EU official, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“But there will be no decision on a new tranche of the European Peace Facility for Ukraine because there is not yet agreement among member states on that,” the official added.

Zelensky: Officials will be brought to justice after bomb shelter audit

President Volodymyr Zelensky says the country’s top security body decided to bring officials to justice over the deaths of three people who were locked out of a bomb shelter on June 1.

“A quarter of bomb shelters in Ukraine and a third in Kyiv are unfit for use,” Zelensky said on Telegram, citing an audit of air raid shelters.

“The decision of the National Security Council is to bring the guilty to justice, and to get all protective structures in the proper condition,” he added.

Zelensky did not provide further details on who might be punished for the faulty shelters.

Russia urges IAEA to ensure Ukraine does not shell nuclear plant

Moscow has urged the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to ensure Ukraine does not shell the Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant in southern Ukraine.

“We expect concrete steps from the IAEA aimed at preventing strikes by the Armed Forces of Ukraine, both on the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant and on adjacent territory and critical infrastructure facilities,” Alexey Likhachev, chief executive of the Russian state nuclear energy firm Rosatom, said in a statement.

Likhachev made the comments at a meeting with IAEA chief Rafael Grossi in the Russian city of Kaliningrad.

This week, the international nuclear watchdog said the nuclear plant was “grappling with … water-related challenges” after the destruction of the nearby Nova Kakhovka dam.

It added that the military situation in the area had become increasingly tense as Kyiv began its counteroffensive.

Russia bans members of the European parliament after new sanctions

In response to the 11th package of European Union sanctions, Russia’s foreign ministry says it is expanding the list of people banned from visiting in response and would respond “appropriately” in due course.

The ministry announced in a statement that the list included security officials, civil servants, business people and members of the European Parliament.

On Friday, the EU formally adopted its new package of sanctions against Russia over its invasion of Ukraine.

Counteroffensive is not a ‘Netflix show’: Ukrainian official

A senior Ukrainian presidential official stated that offensive operations against Russian forces are not “a new season of a Netflix show”.

On Twitter, Mykhailo Podolyak said: “There is no need to expect action and buy popcorn. Offensive operations of the Armed Forces of Ukraine continue in a number of areas. Formation operations are underway to set up the battlefield.”

“Time is always important, … especially in war. The time lost in convincing our partners to provide the necessary weapons is reflected in the specific Russian fortifications built during this period, the deeply dug defence line, and the system of minefields,” he continued.

“Breaking the Russian front today requires a reasonable and balanced approach. The life of a soldier is the most important value for Ukraine today. The military command focuses on military science and intelligence, not on fans in the stands,” he added.

Belgorod governor reports multiple attacks across the region

The Russian governor of the Belgorod region stated that the Ukrainian military fired multiple shells over the past 24 hours.

On Telegram, Vyacheslav Gladko said, “nine artillery shells were fired at the village of Shchetinovka, and four at the village of Zhuravlevka. As a result of the shelling, no one was injured, there was no damage.”

Gladko added that attacks were reported in the village of Tsapovka, in the Volokonovsky district, and the villages of Tishanka, Konovalovo, Krasny Pakhar, Spodaryushino, Dronovka, Sereda, Belyanka and Novaya Tavolzhanka.

Drone shot down over Russian city of Kursk

A drone was downed over the southern Russian city of Kursk, near the Ukrainian border, the regional governor stated.

On Telegram, Roman Starovoit said: “Unmanned aerial vehicles were shot down in the sky over Kursk by our air defence forces. As a result of the fall of debris on the site of one of the gardening associations of the regional centre, the fence was destroyed.”

Attacks on Russian border regions have intensified over the past month, with anti-Kremlin groups claiming some incursions.

At least two people killed in attack in Kherson: Governor

The Ukrainian governor of the Kherson region says two people have been killed and several injured in an attack on a transport company.

On Telegram, Oleksandr Proudkin said: “In Kherson, occupying forces hit a communal transport company with targeted fire. Civilian workers who provide vital city services were hit.

“Unfortunately, a 55-year-old man died on the spot. Five more of his colleagues were injured and were hospitalised,” he added.

In a later update, Proudkin stated a 43-year-old man died in hospital due to his injuries.

Zelensky: Russia is hiding bodies of victims of dam breach

Russia has formed special groups to collect and hide bodies of people killed in the aftermath of the breach this month of the Nova Kakhovka dam in southern Ukraine, President Volodymyr Zelensky says.

“The Russian evil has formed special groups there to remove and, obviously, hide the victims’ bodies,” Zelenskyy charged in his nightly video address.

Ukraine and Russia have accused each other of destroying the dam in the Kherson region, partly occupied by Russian troops.

UN adds Russia to global list of offenders for killing children in Ukraine

The United Nations added Russia to a global list of offenders for killing 136 children in Ukraine in 2022, according to a report to the UN Security Council.

Reuters cited the UN report saying Russian forces and affiliated groups “maimed 518 children and carried out 480 attacks on Ukrainian schools and hospitals.” Russia’s military also used 91 children as human shields, according to the report.

Russia has previously denied targeting civilians.

The UN also accused the Ukrainian military of killing 80 children, injuring 175, and carrying out 212 attacks on schools and hospitals.

Ukraine wasn’t added to the global list of offenders.

The report was written by Virginia Gamba, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres’ special representative for children and armed conflict, according to Reuters. Last month, Gamba reportedly visited Ukraine and Russia, where she met with Maria Lvova-Belova, the Russian official wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for an alleged scheme to deport Ukrainian children to Russia.

According to the Ukrainian government’s portal Children of War, Russia’s full-scale invasion has killed 490 children and wounded 1,028 as of June 2023.

Cluster munitions would be useful for Ukraine: Pentagon

The US military believes cluster munitions would be useful for Ukraine in pushing back against Russian forces, but they have not been approved for Kyiv yet because of congressional restrictions and concerns from allies, a senior Pentagon official says.

Kyiv has urged members of Congress to press Joe Biden’s administration to approve sending Dual-Purpose Conventional Improved Munitions (DPICM).

The cluster munitions, banned by more than 120 countries, normally release large numbers of bomblets that can kill indiscriminately over a wide area, threatening civilians.

“Our military analysts have confirmed that DPICMs would be useful, especially against dug-in Russian positions on the battlefield,” Laura Cooper, a deputy assistant secretary of defense focusing on Russia and Ukraine, told lawmakers during a congressional hearing.

“The reason why you have not seen a move forward in providing this capability relates both to the existing congressional restrictions on the provision of DPICMs and concerns about allied unity,” Cooper added.

Biden and Modi release joint statement pledging support for Ukraine but don’t mention Russia

US President Joe Biden and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi released a joint statement Thursday where both leaders expressed their concern over the conflict in Ukraine and pledged continued humanitarian assistance.

“Our cooperation will serve the global good as we work through a range of multilateral and regional groupings — particularly the Quad — to contribute toward a free, open, inclusive, and resilient Indo-Pacific,” a statement released, following bilateral meetings between Biden and Modi at the White House, said.

“No corner of human enterprise is untouched by the partnership between our two great countries, which spans the seas to the stars,” it added.

Both leaders also “expressed their deep concern over the conflict in Ukraine and mourned its terrible and tragic humanitarian consequences,” according to the statement.

“Both countries further pledge to render continuing humanitarian assistance to the people of Ukraine. They called for respect for international law, principles of the UN charter, and territorial integrity and sovereignty. Both countries concurred on the importance of post-conflict reconstruction in Ukraine.”

The statement conspicuously made no mention of Russia, or its role in the conflict, with the two leaders instead writing that the two countries “affirm that the rules-based international order must be respected,” in a general sense.

India is historically a major purchaser of Russian weaponry and has long-standing ties to Moscow. It has also ramped up purchases of Russian energy – providing a key economic lifeline to leader Vladimir Putin’s government, even as the West slaps extensive controls on this key revenue source.

Though New Delhi has sent humanitarian aid to Ukraine throughout the course of the war, it has abstained from UN resolutions calling for its withdrawal and condemning its invasion.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky met Modi on the sidelines of the Group of Seven (G7) summit in Japan last month, the first in-person meeting between the two since Russia’s invasion began.

Ukraine says counteroffensive “has not even begun in earnest,” pushing back on remarks from Western officials

In exclusive comments to CNN, a senior Ukrainian official said Thursday that the main thrust of the counteroffensive against Russia “has not even begun in earnest,” and that it is too early to assess its success.

The official was responding to CNN’s reporting earlier Wednesday that Western officials believe that the counteroffensive is having less success than expected and “not meeting expectations on any front.”

It is “way too early to assess the overall trajectory of the counteroffensive,” the Ukrainian official told CNN. “The main thrust of the counteroffensive has not even begun in earnest.”

The official said that “shaping operations” were still underway, and the counteroffensive would not be able to be judged until fall or winter.

In CNN’s reporting, the officials cautioned that the counteroffensive is still in its early stages – and that the US and its allies “remain optimistic” Ukrainian forces will be able to make territorial gains over time. The US and its allies are likely to wait until at least July for a fuller assessment of the progress of the counteroffensive which was gradually launched over the last few weeks.

In addition, these officials note that Ukrainian forces have themselves been adapting to Russian tactics and defenses, including carrying out more dismounted operations. In recent days, Ukrainian forces have also had more success targeting and shooting down Russian aircraft.

Ultimately, the counteroffensive is proving a “tough drive” for Ukraine and Russia, one of the Western official said, with both sides incurring heavy losses.

Ukraine’s military claims gradual advances in south as heavy fighting continues in east

Russia launched attacks on populated areas of Ukraine on Thursday destroying infrastructure and causing civilians to suffer, according to the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine.

The Armed Forces of Ukraine said Russia launched 44 air strikes and fired about 30 multiple rocket launcher systems over the last day.

In the south, Russia continues to be on the defensive, focusing its “main efforts” on preventing the advance of Ukrainian troops in Zaporizhzhia and Kherson, the military said.

Ukraine has also claimed “partial success” in the south against Russia where the Ukrainian offensive continues, though the “situation has not changed significantly over the past day,” Hanna Maliar, deputy defense Minister of Ukraine, said in her latest update.

“We are gradually advancing, having partial success, pushing the enemy back and leveling the front,” she stated, adding, “The Ukrainian defense forces continue their offensive on the Melitopol and Berdiansk directions. In some areas, we have advanced and are consolidating our positions.”

Ukraine’s air force carried out seven strikes on Russian military personnel and four on anti-aircraft missile systems, striking a command post and ammunition depots, the Armed Forces of Ukraine said.

Heavy fighting continues in the east, especially in the Lyman, Bakhmut, Avdiivka and Mariinka directions — where Russia continues its main assault, the Armed Forces of Ukraine added.

Ukrainian forces conducted both offensive and defensive operations over the day but continue to “effectively restrain the offensive of Russian troops” in those eastern sectors, Maliar noted.

“The enemy has not advanced a single meter,” she claimed.

Russia conducted “unsuccessful” attacks and an air strike in the Kharkiv region as well as air strikes in the Luhansk and Donetsk region, the Armed Forces of Ukraine said, adding that Russia was also unsuccessful in its offensives in the area of Sieverne and Avdiivka and in the Donetsk region.

Ukraine progresses on reforms to unlock membership talks: EU

Senior EU officials say that Ukraine is making progress on political reforms to open the way for European Union membership talks but still needs to progress in five important areas.

The assessment, by the EU’s executive body, the European Commission, offered Kyiv hope that it could achieve its aim of getting the green light for membership talks in December. But it also made clear that Ukraine has a way to go just to complete the seven steps that the EU outlined last year when it granted Kyiv the status of a candidate for membership.

“They are on track, they are working hard. After all, the country is under attack,” said Oliver Varhelyi, the European Commissioner for relations with the EU’s neighbours.

“Compared to that, I think that they are delivering,” he added.

He stated Ukraine had made progress but had more work to do on constitutional court reform, on measures to fight corruption, money laundering and curb the influence of oligarchs, and on the treatment of minorities.

Putin says Ukraine has not exhausted its “offensive potential”

Russian President Vladimir Putin reiterated that Ukraine has not depleted its “offensive potential,” adding that it has a “number of strategic reserves that have not yet been activated,” while addressing members of his Security Council in Moscow Thursday.

Despite having claimed that Ukrainian forces are losing ground, Putin cautioned that Russian armed forces need to “proceed for the realities” when “building combat work.”

Ukraine’s Western allies have made it clear they have “really decided to fight with Russia to the last Ukrainian,” he added.

On Wednesday, Putin told reporters that there is a “certain lull” in fighting, with no active offensive operations being carried out by Ukraine yet. He claimed Ukraine is suffering heavy losses on the battlefield.

“But today we see that this (Ukraine’s) offensive potential has not yet been exhausted, there are also reserves that the enemy is thinking about where and how to introduce,” he said.

Meanwhile, Ukraine claimed Wednesday that Russian forces are on the defensive in the Zaporizhzhia and Kherson region directions, while the Armed Forces of Ukraine are advancing.

60bn euros pledged to help Ukraine rebuild

Foreign donors have pledged 60 billion euros ($66bn) of new financial support for Ukraine, the UK has said, as an international conference aimed at funding the war-ravaged country’s reconstruction closed.

“We had not envisaged this to be a pledging conference. Nevertheless, today at this conference, we can announce a combined 60 billion euros in support to Ukraine,” said James Cleverly, foreign minister of the UK, which hosted the meeting.

“This provides us with the medium-term predictable support that will unlock the macroeconomic stability that Ukraine needs,” he continued, adding that efforts were now focused on unlocking “the enormous potential of the private sector”.

“Ukraine will rebuild, but they cannot do it alone, so together as governments as international organisations, as businesses, as representatives of civil society, we have shown Ukraine and the Ukrainian people that we stand with them,” he stated.

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