Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Russia’s “Special Operation” in Ukraine; Day 508: Putin says Ukrainian counter offensive ‘not succeeding’

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:

In addition to east, there’s movement on southern front: Ukraine military

A spokesman for the military’s southern command has said that Ukrainian forces advanced more than a kilometre in one part of the southern front.

In a statement on Sunday, the military announced Kyiv made incremental gains in parts of the east and south since launching its long-awaited counteroffensive.

Ukraine is ‘gradually moving forward’ near Bakhmut: Official

Kyiv said Sunday it was advancing near the eastern city of Bakhmut, which Russia seized in May in the longest and bloodiest battle of the war.

“We are gradually moving forward in the Bakhmut area. There is a daily advance on the southern flank around Bakhmut. On the northern flank, we are trying to hold our positions, the enemy is attacking,” Deputy Defence Minister Ganna Malyar wrote on Telegram.

Malyar also stated that Ukraine’s forces were on the defensive against Russian forces near the eastern city of Kupiansk.

“For two days in a row, the enemy has been actively attacking in the Kupiansk sector in the Kharkiv region. We are on the defence,” Malyar stated, adding that “fierce battles are going on, and positions… change several times a day.”

Ukraine’s counteroffensive ‘not succeeding’: Russia

Russian President Vladimir Putin has stressed the Ukrainian counteroffensive aimed at recapturing territory is “not succeeding” and that attempts to break through Russian defences have failed.

Putin made the remarks in an interview with state television, excerpts of which were released on Sunday.

“All attempts by the enemy to break through our defence … have not been successful throughout the entire offensive,” Putin stated.

Russia will use ‘sufficient stockpile’ of cluster bombs if necessary: Putin

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin stated his nation has a “sufficient stockpile” of cluster bombs and that Moscow reserves the right to use them if such munitions are used against Russian forces in Ukraine.

Ukraine has received cluster bombs from the United States, munitions banned in more than 100 countries. Kyiv has pledged only to use them to dislodge concentrations of enemy soldiers.

“Of course, if they are used against us, we reserve the right to take reciprocal action,” Putin said in a state TV interview, excerpts of which were published on Sunday.

Both Moscow and Kyiv have used the munitions during the war, and Ukrainian regional officials have accused Russian forces of using them to target civilians.

Russia claims to have ‘deactivated’ 10th drone over Crimea

The number of drones Russia claims to have downed over Crimea on Sunday has risen to 10 as the Russian governor of Sevastopol, Mikhail Razvozhayev, announced on Telegram that another drone had been electronically deactivated.

The Russian defence ministry earlier on Sunday said their air defence shot down two unmanned aerial vehicles and electronically disabled five others.

The ministry also said its forces destroyed two naval drones, and the thwarted attack resulted in “no casualties or destruction”.

One person killed in overnight shelling: Kharkiv governor

Ukrainian officials say a civilian was killed and another wounded in Russian shelling in Ukraine’s Kharkiv region overnight.

The region is situated in the northeast of Ukraine and is home to the country’s second-largest city, Kharkiv.

Ukraine recaptured much of the eastern Kharkiv region in September, with Russian forces occupying now only a small strip of land there.

Oleh Sinehubov, Kharkiv’s governor, said on the Telegram messaging app that a 33-year-old man was killed after Russia fired at a residential building in the village of Kolodiazne in the region overnight.

He added Russia had launched four S-400 surface-to-air missiles overnight at Kharkiv.

Ukrainian drone attack on Crimea ‘thwarted’: Russian defence ministry

Russia’s air defence forces and fleet in the Black Sea have shot down nine Ukrainian drones over the Crimean port of Sevastopol, according to a Moscow-installed official.

Russia’s defence ministry also announced its forces had destroyed seven aerial and two underwater drones.

“This morning, an attempt by the Kyiv regime to carry out a terrorist attack by seven unmanned aerial vehicles and two unmanned underwater vehicles on objects on the territory of the Crimean Peninsula near the city of Sevastopol was thwarted,” the ministry said on the Telegram messaging app.

It added that two aerial drones were shot down over the Black Sea at a great distance from the coastline, while five were intercepted by Russia’s electronic warfare forces.

There were no casualties and no damage, the ministry noted.

US treasury secretary says Ukraine aid best boost for global economy

US treasury secretary Janet Yellen has stated that redoubling support for Ukraine is the “single best” way to aid the global economy.

Yellen, speaking on the sidelines of a G20 finance minister summit in India, added a “key priority” was “to redouble our support for Ukraine” in its defence against Russia.

After visiting Kyiv in February, Yellen said she had seen first-hand “the massive difference” that foreign assistance was making, both to civilians and the Ukrainian military.

“Ending this war is first and foremost a moral imperative,” Yellen told reporters in Gandhinagar, adding, “But it’s also the single best thing we can do for the global economy.”

“Budgetary support is critical to Ukraine’s resistance,” she continued.

“By helping keep the economy and the government running, we are giving Ukraine the support it needs so it can fight for freedom and its sovereignty,” Yellen said.

She added that one of Washington’s “core goals” was to “combat Russia’s efforts to evade our sanctions”.

Russian forces ‘intercept eight Ukrainian drones over Crimea’

Russia’s air defence forces and fleet in the Black Sea have shot down eight Ukrainian drones over the Crimean port of Sevastopol, according to a Moscow-installed official.

Mikhail Razvozhayev, the Russian-installed governor of Sevastopol, stated the drone attack took place early on Sunday over the port of Sevastopol and the city’s Balaklava and Khersones districts.

“No objects, either in the city or in the water area were damaged,” he said on the Telegram messaging app.

One drone was shot down over the sea, five were intercepted by Russia’s electronic warfare forces and two water surface drones were destroyed on the outer shore, he added.

There was no immediate comment from Kyiv on the attack on the Crimean Peninsula, which Russia annexed from Ukraine in 2014.

Ukraine almost never publicly claims responsibility for attacks inside Russia or on Russian-controlled territory in Ukraine but has been saying in recent months that destroying Russia’s military infrastructure helps Kyiv’s counteroffensive.

South Korea promises $150m aid after Zelensky talks

South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol has made a surprise visit to Ukraine, offering a show of support for the country in its war against Russia.

Yoon’s office said on Saturday that he travelled to Ukraine with his wife, Kim Keon-hee, following trips to Lithuania for a NATO summit and to Poland. It is his first visit since Russia invaded Ukraine almost 17 months ago.

After the two leaders met, President Volodymyr Zelensky thanked Seoul for its “firm support of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity” and the “significant political, security, economic and humanitarian aid” it has supplied since the start of Russia’s war.

“Today, during this first visit of the president of the Republic of Korea to Ukraine in the history of our relations, we talked about everything that is important for people to lead a normal and safe life,” Zelensky said, adding, “Thank you for the meaningful talks. Thank you for your strong support.”

Yoon pledged on Saturday to “expand the scale” of his country’s non-lethal military assistance to Ukraine, adding that humanitarian aid would be increased to $150m in 2023 from $100m last year.

He also stated that he and Zelensky agreed on cooperating on post-war reconstruction efforts in Ukraine. Additionally, South Korea will also launch a scholarship fund named after Yoon and Zelensky to expand support for Ukrainian students in South Korea.

Ukraine’s counteroffensive is “slow,” but Western allies remain patient: Kyiv

Senior Ukrainian officials and generals alike continue to describe tough fighting and limited progress on the battlefield as they look to drive Russian forces out of the country and turn the tide of the war.

Just days after Ukraine’s key partners met at the NATO summit in Lithuania, pledging even deeper security ties — albeit without specifying any timetable for Ukraine’s potential membership in the alliance — Kyiv insists it does not feel under pressure to deliver quick results.

Speaking to journalists in Kyiv following his attendance at the NATO summit, the head of the Office of the President of Ukraine, Andriy Yermak, admitted the counteroffensive — seen as being underway since the start of June — was “hard work.”

“It’s not going that fast; it is slow,” he said, adding that it is important Ukrainians are told the truth about developments on the ground.

Asked if Ukraine’s Western allies were looking for quick results, Yermak stated there was no such pressure from partner countries. Instead, he said, they just ask: “What else do you need to expedite victory?”

One of the more encouraging areas for Ukraine’s offensive appears to be around the battered city of Bakhmut in the east, though without any reports of significant breakthroughs.

“The Bakhmut direction remains one where our defense forces have the initiative. Our defense forces are pushing the enemy on the southern and northern flanks, storming their positions,” military spokesperson Serhii Cherevatyi said on Ukrainian television Saturday, adding that “the enemy is putting up fierce resistance.”

Mapping by DeepStateMap.Live, which updates changes on the ground daily and is widely used by analysts, has suggested almost no shifts in the front line around the city for many days, even as Ukrainian forces continue efforts to regain villages like Klishchiivka to the southwest and Berhivka to the northwest, where fighting has raged for weeks.

Further to the north, in the roughly 100-kilometer (about 62-mile) stretch of land between the towns of Lyman and Kupyansk, Cherevatyi said Russian forces were “actively attacking.”

The area was held by Russia for almost six months last year before being recaptured in a Ukrainian offensive in October; in recent weeks, it has become a renewed focus of Russian firepower.

“This direction is the leader in the (Russian) use of artillery, mortars and multiple rocket launchers shelling. The enemy carried out 570 attacks and 11 air raids over the last day,” Cherevatyi continued.

According to Russian military bloggers, one of the areas where Moscow’s forces have been concentrating their efforts is around the village of Novoselivske in northeastern Ukraine. On Telegram, the popular Rybar account described Russian advances through forested areas to the south of the village, as well as the digging of a new defensive line close to a nearby railway line.

Putin holds call with South African president about grain deal as deadline looms

Russian President Vladimir Putin and South African President Cyril Ramaphosa talked by phone Saturday about the soon-expiring deal that allows grain to be exported from Ukrainian ports in the Black Sea.

While global food supplies are not as tight as they were last year, traders say prices would rise if the Black Sea grain deal is not renewed — and Putin has threatened to let the deal expire Monday if his demands are not met.

Though Russia has renewed the deal three times, it has repeatedly complained that a separate agreement with the United Nations to facilitate shipments of Russian fertilizers and grain, which was brokered as part of the package last July, has not yielded results.

On the call with Ramaphosa, “Putin stressed that the obligations set out in the relevant Russia-UN memorandum to remove obstacles to the export of Russian food and fertilizers still remain unfulfilled,” according to a Kremlin readout.

“Moreover, the main goal of the deal, namely the supply of grain to countries in need, including those on the African continent, has not been realized,” it said.

United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres sent a letter to Putin this week outlining a proposal to keep the deal alive and seeking to address another key demand from Moscow — access to some of the international financial mechanisms that sanctions have cut it off from.

More background: The Black Sea grain deal was brokered by Turkey and the United Nations in July 2022 after Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine and blockaded its ports, sparking fears of a global famine. Proponents say it was vital to addressing world hunger, as Ukraine is one of the world’s leading grain exporters.

Putin and Ramaphosa also agreed to hold a separate meeting at the upcoming BRICS summit — a meeting of leaders from Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa — for more discussion of the countries’ direct relations and international priorities, the statement said.

The BRICS summit is scheduled for August 22-24 in Johannesburg, South Africa, but the Kremlin has yet to confirm whether Putin will attend in person.

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