Saturday, July 13, 2024

Russia’s “Special Operation” in Ukraine; Day 502: Biden says Ukraine not ready for NATO membership

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:

UK PM wants to discuss pathway for Ukraine to join NATO: spokesperson

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak wants to work with allies to discuss a pathway for Ukraine to join NATO, but the exact mechanism is up for discussion, his spokesperson said, following talks with US President Joe Biden.

The spokesperson stated it would not be appropriate for Ukraine to join NATO when the war with Russia was going on, but Sunak believes Ukraine’s “rightful place” is within alliance.

“We want to work with the U.S. and our allies on the pathway for Ukraine to join,” the spokesperson told reporters.

German Chancellor says ‘Israel style security guarantees’ for Ukraine being discussed

Prior to the NATO Summit in Vilnius, Lithuania, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz says that discussions on emboldening Ukraine with “Israel style security guarantees” are amongst the key topics being discussed by the military alliance’s members.

Earlier, in an interview with CNN, US President Joe Biden also stated that Washington would continue supporting Ukraine militarily just like the US does with Israel.

Sunak and Biden agree to maintain support for Ukraine

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and US President Joe Biden agreed on the need to “strengthen” their alliance and maintain support for Ukraine, a Downing Street spokesperson said in a statement Monday.

The two leaders discussed Ukraine’s counteroffensive and emphasized the “importance of the country’s international partners committing to its long-term defense, providing the support Ukraine needs to win this war and secure a just and lasting peace,” the spokesperson said in the statement.

Sunak and Biden also agreed on the need to ensure Sweden has a “swift path to full NATO accession,” the spokesperson added.

The statement concluded by saying both leaders acknowledged the importance of their friendship and of continuing the “close dialogue they have had in the few months.”

Southern offensive has liberated 169 square kilometers of territory so far: Ukrainian officials

The Ukrainian military says it has liberated 169 square kilometers of territory in the south since the beginning of the offensive in mid-May, an area roughly the size of the city of Odesa.

The official Military Media Center said that in the past week Ukrainian forces had advanced by more than one kilometer “as a result of the offensive in the Melitopol and Berdiansk directions.”

It added that 10 square kilometers of Ukrainian land have been liberated in the last week.

The Ukrainian General Staff announced Monday that troops “continue to conduct offensive operations in the Melitopol and Berdiansk directions, entrenching themselves on the achieved lines, inflicting artillery fire, and carrying out counter-battery measures.”

Russian forces continue assault operations at several points along the Donetsk front lines, according to the Ukrainian General Staff, with 30 combat engagements over the last day. There has been little change in frontline positions along the eastern front lines.

The General Staff said that Ukrainian forces had resisted heavy fire by Russian aircraft and artillery in the Bakhmut area, and had also held back Russian assault operations near Avdiivka and Mariinka.

The Military Media Center added that 24 square kilometers had been liberated in the Bakhmut sector in recent operations, with 4 square kilometers of territory liberated in the past week.

There have been incremental Ukrainian advances south of Bakhmut around the village of Klishchiivka.

“The enemy is resisting, moving units and troops, actively using its reserves. Heavy fighting continues,” the center noted.

The Institute for the Study of War announced in its latest analysis of the battlefield that “the current pace of the Ukrainian counteroffensive is reflective of a deliberate effort to conserve Ukrainian combat power and attrit Russian manpower and equipment at the cost of slower territorial advances.”

Ukrainian military officials have stated that Russia is capable of bringing in substantial reserve units to compensate for losses.

Germany says it will announce “new support packages” for Ukraine at the NATO summit

Germany will announce new support packages for Ukraine during the upcoming NATO summit in Vilnius, Lithuania, German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius said Monday.

The preliminary work is “practically completed,” Pistorius stated during a joint press conference with his French counterpart Sebastien Lecornu in Berlin.

Pistorius added that he expects the NATO summit will be “very united” and that it “must be, in light of the current situation.”

While pre-summit discussions have strengthened his hope, Pistorius said he is watching the issue of Sweden’s accession to NATO and “how Turkey and Hungary will act.”

Lecornu said it was key for the allies that Sweden becomes a NATO member “as quickly as possible.”

NATO eases Ukraine’s membership pathway ahead of summit: FM

Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dymytro Kuleba says that NATO members have reached consensus on removing the requirement for Kyiv to follow a Membership Action Plan (MAP), ahead of the alliance’s summit in Vilnius, Lithuania.

“I welcome this long-awaited decision that shortens our path to NATO. It is also the best moment to offer clarity on the invitation to Ukraine to become member,” Kuleba said in a tweet.

NATO did not immediately comment on Kuleba’s remarks.

Erdogan links Sweden’s NATO membership to Turkey’s EU membership

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said that the European Union should open the way for Ankara’s accession to the bloc before Turkey’s parliament approves Sweden’s bid to join the NATO military alliance.

Speaking ahead of his departure for the NATO summit in Vilnius, Erdogan stated that Sweden had to fulfill the requirements of a deal reached between Ankara, Helsinki and Stockholm last year in Madrid, before becoming a member of the military alliance.

He also stated that Ankara’s ratification of Sweden’s NATO membership bid and United States’ sale of F-16 fighter jets to Turkey are not to be linked to each other.

But Erdogan added that he will hold further talks with US President Joe Biden on Turkey’s purchase of F-16 jets.

China’s president pledges closer ties with Russia

China’s President Xi Jinping has pledged to continue working with Russia to develop a comprehensive strategic partnership of cooperation, acoording to Chinese state media reports.

In his meeting with Russian upper house speaker Valentina Matviyenko in Beijing, Xi stressed legislative cooperation was an important part of China-Russia relations, state radio reported.

Matviyenko stated that Moscow could count on China’s “friendly shoulder.”

‘Nothing new to say on Black Sea grain deal’: Kremlin

The Kremlin says that there was nothing new to say about the Black Sea grain export deal, which is set to expire next week.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters that there were currently no plans for President Vladimir Putin to meet Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan to discuss renewing the deal, and that it was not known when Putin might visit Turkey.

Earlier, Erdogan told reporter that he expects Putin to visit Turkey in August.

Biden touts “rock solid” relationship with UK during meeting with Sunak

US President Joe Biden heralded a “rock solid” relationship with the United Kingdom as his meeting with Prime Minister Rishi Sunak got underway in a garden at No. 10 Downing Street.

Biden recounted all of the places he’s met with Sunak – from San Diego to Belfast to Hiroshima to Washington, six times in the six months since the prime minister took office.

“Couldn’t be meeting with a closer friend or greater ally. Got a lot to talk about,” Biden said.

He continued: “Our relationship is rock solid … And I look forward to our discussions.”

Sunak welcomed Biden, saying he is “very privileged and fortunate to have you here.”

He added they would be strengthening cooperation on joint economic security, as well as discussing the NATO alliance.

“We head from here to NATO in Vilnius, where we stand as two of the firmest allies in that alliance and I know we want to do everything we can to strengthen Euro-Atlantic security. Great pleasure to have you here,” Sunak continued.

The leaders ignored shouted questions, including one on his call with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, as Biden admired a commemorative No.10 Downing Street mug.

Biden arrives at Downing Street for meeting with UK PM

US President Joe Biden has arrived at 10 Downing Street to meet UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, the sixth meeting between the pair in as many months.

Sunak rolled out the red carpet for Biden’s first visit to Downing Street during his presidency, with the pair warmly greeting each other with a handshake and Biden giving a quick wave to reporters before the pair disappeared inside.

The president and prime minister are expected to discuss Russia’s war in Ukraine, among other key topics, with the visit aimed at bolstering the US-UK “special relationship” on the eve of a critical summit with NATO leaders in Vilnius, Lithuania.

The meeting comes at a pivotal time as Biden has just approved providing Ukraine with controversial cluster munitions, a type of weaponry that is opposed by over 100 countries, including the UK, which has signed up to a ban that prohibits their use.

Ukraine is looking for a unanimous NATO invitation: Senior official

Ukraine wants a unanimous invitation from NATO members for Kyiv to join the defense alliance, Deputy Prime Minister Olga Stefanishyna said.

“We want all 31 NATO leaders to confirm that Ukraine is invited to join NATO,” Stefanishnya told Ukrainian publication European Pravda in an interview, adding, “And the NATO-Ukraine Council, which is being created, will determine the way to this process. First, a political decision will be made, and then we will define the formats.”

Russia’s war in Ukraine and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s push for NATO membership will be among the key issues at a NATO summit in Lithuania, which kicks off Tuesday.

However, US President Joe Biden told CNN that Russia’s war in Ukraine must end before NATO can consider Kyiv’s membership of the alliance.

Stefanishnya said Zelensky’s physical presence in Vilnius this week had not yet been decided.

“On the table in front of the leaders are the final documents that are proposed to be adopted as a result of the summit. Now we don’t know what these documents will contain,” she said.

“We will definitely not hear ‘no’ in Vilnius, that’s the first thing. Now the discussion is about what kind of ‘yes’ will it be,” she added.

Ukraine’s eventual accession is taking on increasing urgency and is likely to be one of the biggest flash points for the group as the war drags on.

NATO first welcomed Ukraine’s membership aspirations during a 2008 meeting in Bucharest, Romania, but little progress has been made and the timeline remains uncertain. And while the US has said Ukraine will not be joining NATO as a member coming out of this meeting, the Vilnius summit presents a critical opportunity to take tangible steps toward that end in an important show of unity.

Biden will serve as a key player in determining what specific, measurable criteria or timelines, if any, are offered to Ukraine for NATO membership during this summit.

US sending cluster bombs to Ukraine may cause humanitarian issues: China

The United States’ move to provide Ukraine with cluster munitions, which have been banned by many counties, may trigger serious humanitarian problems in the conflict zone, Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Mao Ning stated at a briefing on Monday.

“China has noted that the United States’ decision has given rise to concern across the entire international community as many countries have clearly voiced their opposition to this move. The irresponsible provision of cluster munitions can easily trigger humanitarian problems,” Mao said in response to a TASS request for comment on Washington’s decision to provide such weapons to Ukraine.

According to the Chinese diplomat, Beijing believes that dialogue and talks are the only way to resolve the Ukrainian crisis.

“The parties concerned should refrain from adding fuel to the fire in order to prevent tensions from rising and the Ukrainian crisis from escalating,” Mao stressed.

UK says Russia ‘struggling with a crisis of combat medical provision’

The United Kingdom’s defence ministry announced that “Russia is almost certainly struggling with a crisis of combat medical provision, after suffering an average of around 400 casualties a day for 17 months”.

“The influx of military casualties has likely undermined the normal provision of some Russian civilian medical services, especially in border regions near Ukraine. It is likely that many dedicated military hospitals are being reserved for officer casualties,” the ministry said in a tweet.

Germany expected to announce military hardware delivery for Ukraine: Official

The German government is expected to make an announcement on the delivery of military hardware to Ukraine over the course of the week’s NATO summit, according to a senior government official in Berlin.

Germany is also working on bilateral security guarantees for Ukraine, the official said, adding that it was not the right time to invite Kyiv to join the defence alliance.

NATO leaders are set to convene in Vilnius, Lithuania for the military alliance’s annual summit. Emboldening Ukraine militarily is a key part of the agenda at this year’s summit.

‘Negotiations to resolve situation in Ukraine are impossible’: Russia

Konstantin Gavrilov, the head of Russia’s delegation on arms control in Vienna, has stated that negotiations to resolve the situation in Ukraine are impossible, according to a report by Russia’s state news agency RIA Novosti.

“Neither Washington nor Kyiv has any desire,” said Gavrilov, at talks in the Austrian capital on military security issues.

Ukrainian police say deadly Russian bombing of Zaporizhzhia school is a “war crime”

Russia’s deadly bombing Sunday of a school where civilians were receiving humanitarian aid is a “war crime,” according to police in Ukraine’s southern Zaporizhzhia region.

At least four people were killed and 11 others injured in the attack in the city of Orikhiv, said Yurii Malashko, head of the Zaporizhzhia region military administration.

A “guided aerial bomb” was used in the attack, Malashko claimed.

Those killed range in age from 43 to 47, and the injured have been hospitalized with varying degrees of severity, he said.

In a Facebook post Monday, regional police announced at least 15 people were trapped under the rubble, adding, “Residential buildings and other civilian infrastructure located near the epicenter of the explosion were also damaged.”

As of 8:30 a.m. local time Monday, rescue workers were still searching for any victims trapped under the rubble.

Police also stated they were collecting “evidence of the cynical war crime.”

White House de facto admits to committing war crimes in Ukraine: Russian Embassy

The US administration has essentially admitted to committing war crimes in Ukraine, the Russian Embassy in Washington said reacting to a statement by US White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby with regard to supplying Kiev with cluster munitions.

“We have taken note of the Director for Strategic Communications of the NSC John Kirby’s statements about the provision of cluster munitions to Ukraine. The official de facto confessed to the United States committing war crimes during the Ukrainian conflict. He overtly stated that civilians would fall victim to [the US’] cluster-type weapons. According to the perverted view of the White House representative, this does less harm than the actions of Russia,” the Russian diplomatic mission noted.

“If there is any logic behind the Administration’s decision to transfer cluster munitions, it boils down to ‘it won’t get any worse.’ The United States is ready to destroy life far from its own borders with the hands of Ukrainians,” the embassy added.

According to the Russian diplomats, the US administration is involved in this “only for the sake of an unattainable dream of the strategic defeat of the Russian Federation, which defends its people and its land. We fight Kiev criminals who embrace the Azov (a nationalist battalion outlawed in Russia) terrorists, while the United States is helping Ukrainian Nazis commit inhuman acts.”

In an interview, broadcast on Sunday, Kirby insisted that Washington was supplying cluster ordnance to the Kiev regime in order to replenish the conventional artillery shells the Ukrainian armed forces are running out of quickly.

“We are trying to ramp up our production of the kind of artillery shells that they’re using most. But that production is still not where we wanted it to be,” the White House official stated, adding, “So, we’re going to see these additional artillery shells that have cluster bomblets in them to help bridge the gap as we ramp up production of normal 155 artillery shells.”

Ukrainian military reports gains south of Bakhmut and around Kupyansk

Ukrainian forces have made gains south of Bakhmut in the eastern Donetsk region and further north around Kupyansk, Ukrainian military leaders claimed on Monday.

“In the Bakhmut sector, the enemy is on the defensive,” Ukrainian Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar said in a Telegram post, adding, “On the southern flank, there is a certain advance of our troops.”

Serhii Cherevatyi, spokesman for the Eastern Grouping of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, told CNN by phone on Sunday that Ukraine continues to pressurize Russian forces in Bakhmut.

“In Bakhmut the initiative is with our troops,” he continued.

The Ukrainian Military’s General Staff announced Russia was “focusing its main efforts on the Lyman, Bakhmut, Avdiivka and Marinka directions, and heavy fighting continues.” There were 27 combat engagements in that area over the past day, it added.

Meanwhile, in the direction of Kupyansk in the northeastern Kharkiv region, Ukrainian troops “managed to make significant progress, driving the enemy from their positions,” Yurii Fedorenko, commander of a company in the 92nd Mechanized Brigade, told Ukrainian television.

Kupyansk “remains a priority for the enemy,” Fedorenko said.

Maliar said Ukraine continues its offensive, naming Melitopol and Berdiansk among the cities where “hot battles” are taking place.

“The process of consolidating the achieved positions continues,” she stated, adding, “Our troops are conducting aerial reconnaissance, clearing mines and delivering artillery fire on identified enemy targets, carrying out counter-battery operations, and are ready to continue offensive actions.”

The General Staff also said Ukraine was consolidating positions in the same area.

“At the same time, the Ukrainian Defense Forces continue to conduct offensive operations in the Melitopol and Berdiansk directions, consolidate their positions, and carry out counter-battery operations,” the General Staff noted.

The General Staff added that in the south of Ukraine, in particular in the Zaporizhzhia and Kherson directions, Russian forces are focusing their main efforts on preventing further advance of Ukrainian troops.

Zelensky calls for a united response to Ukraine’s NATO membership bid ahead of alliance summit

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky urged NATO to provide a united response to Ukraine’s membership bid ahead of the alliance summit in Vilnius, Lithuania.

“Vilnius summit is very important. If there is no unity regarding the technical invitation for Ukraine to join the alliance, it’s all a matter of political will just to find the proper wording and invite Ukraine,” Zelensky said in a pre-recorded, translated interview with ABC News which aired on Sunday.

“It would be an important message to say that NATO is not afraid of Russia. Ukraine should get clear security guarantees while it is not in NATO. Only under these conditions, our meeting would be meaningful, otherwise it’s just another politics,” he added.

Asked if he would attend the meeting, Zelensky did not provide a definitive answer but said that he would not travel there “for fun, if the decision has been made beforehand.”

Zelensky also touched on the counteroffensive, admitting Ukraine would like it to be advancing at a faster pace.

“All of us, we want to do it faster because every day means new losses of Ukrainians,” Zelensky said, adding that Ukraine is “advancing” and is “not stuck in one place.”

The Ukrainian president told ABC that F-16s and any other equipment Ukraine needs “will give us an opportunity to move faster, to save more lives, to stand our ground for a longer time.”

“Some weapons we have been provided by our allies help us save lives and I appreciate that. Of course foot dragging will lead to more lives lost,” he continued.

Ukraine is not yet ready for NATO membership and the war needs to end before the alliance can consider adding Kyiv to its ranks, US President Joe Biden said in an interview with CNN that aired Sunday.

War with Russia must end before NATO can consider membership for Ukraine: Biden

Ukraine is not yet ready for NATO membership and the war needs to end before the alliance can consider adding Kyiv to its ranks, US President Joe Biden said in an interview with CNN that aired Sunday.

While discussion of Ukraine’s imminent membership in NATO is premature, the US and its allies in NATO will continue to provide President Volodymyr Zelensky and his forces the security and weaponry they need to try to end the war with Russia, Biden told CNN’s Fareed Zakaria.

Biden spoke to Zakaria ahead of his weeklong trip to Europe, which includes a NATO summit in Lithuania, where Russia’s war in Ukraine and Zelensky’s push for NATO membership will be among the key issues looming over the gathering.

“I don’t think there is unanimity in NATO about whether or not to bring Ukraine into the NATO family now, at this moment, in the middle of a war,” Biden stated, adding, “For example, if you did that, then, you know — and I mean what I say — we’re determined to commit every inch of territory that is NATO territory. It’s a commitment that we’ve all made no matter what. If the war is going on, then we’re all in war. We’re at war with Russia, if that were the case.”

Biden said that he’s spoken to Zelensky at length about the issue, saying he’s told the Ukrainian president the US would keep providing security and weaponry for Ukraine like it does for Israel while the process plays out.

“I think we have to lay out a rational path for Ukraine to be able to qualify to be able to get into NATO,” Biden added, noting that he refused Russian President Vladimir Putin’s demands before the war for a commitment not to admit Ukraine because the alliance has “an open-door policy.”

“But I think it’s premature to say, to call for a vote, you know, in now, because there’s other qualifications that need to be met, including democratization and some of those issues,” Biden continued.

The NATO meeting also comes as Sweden is seeking to join the Western alliance, a move that has faced resistance from Turkey and Hungary. Biden said he was optimistic that Sweden would eventually be admitted to NATO, noting the key holdout, Turkey, is seeking to modernize its F-16 fleet, along with Greece, which has voted to admit Sweden.

The White House announced Friday that the US was sending Ukraine cluster munitions for the first time, a step taken to help bolster Kyiv’s ammunition stores as it mounts a counteroffensive against Russia. Biden stated it was a “difficult decision” to give Ukraine the controversial weapons, but that he was convinced it was necessary.

“This is a war relating to munitions. And they’re running out of that ammunition,” Biden added.

There are more than 100 countries, including the UK, France, and Germany, who have outlawed the munitions under the Convention on Cluster Munitions. But the US and Ukraine are not signatories to the ban.

Russia: West not fulfilling conditions for grain agreement renewal

With just one week to go before a key grain agreement allowing Ukraine to export the commodity across the Black Sea expires, Russia’s foreign minister told his Turkish counterpart that the West has not met Russia’s demands for an extension.

Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov complained to his Turkish counterpart, Hakan Fidan, in a phone call that conditions have not been met. These include dismantling sanctions that prevent Russia’s exports of grain and fertilisers.

Germany should not ‘block’ US sending cluster munitions to Ukraine: President

Germany’s president announced the country should not “block” the United States from sending cluster bombs to Ukraine, while defending its opposition to the use of the controversial weapon.

“Germany’s position against the use of cluster munitions is as justified as ever. But we cannot, in the current situation, block the United States,” said President Frank-Walter Steinmeier in an interview with German broadcaster ZDF.

If Ukraine no longer has the means to defend itself or if those supporting the war-stricken country back down, “it would be the end of Ukraine”, added the president, whose powers are largely ceremonial.

The United States has announced new military aid to support the Ukrainian army to counter the Russian invasion, which includes cluster munitions, crossing a new threshold in the type of weaponry supplied to Kyiv.

Biden to visit UK for talks with Sunak

US President Joe Biden is heading to the United Kingdom for talks with Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.

Sunak has been critical of Biden’s decision to provide cluster bombs to Ukraine.

After Biden’s UK visit, both leaders are set to attend a NATO Summit in Lithuania on Monday.

BRICS summit to be ‘physical’ despite Putin warrant: South Africa

South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa has confirmed that next month’s BRICS summit, to which President Vladimir Putin has been invited, will be “physical” despite an arrest warrant issued by the International Criminal Court against the Russian president.

“The BRICS summit is going ahead and we are finalising our discussions on the format,” he told journalists on the sidelines of a meeting of the ruling ANC party, adding it will be a “physical” meeting.

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