Friday, June 21, 2024

Live Update: Russia’s “Special Operation” in Ukraine; Day 529

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:

Kyiv launched British-supplied missiles at bridges between Crimea and occupied Ukraine: Official

Explosions on two bridges to Crimea Sunday were caused by Storm Shadow long-range missiles supplied to Ukraine by the United Kingdom, according to Vladimir Saldo, the Russian-appointed acting head of Kherson region.

Saldo said the two bridges were used by civilian and not military traffic, and that a rupture to a gas pipeline running alongside the bridge cut off supplies to 20,000 residents of the city of Henichesk in Kherson.

Saldo added the attack targeted civilians and did not impact military operations.

“These strikes do not do anything for the special military operation that is currently underway,” he said.

“They have decided to take petty revenge on civilians and those who are now moving through the territory of the Kherson region,” Saldo added.

The Russia-backed leader stated the missiles did not cause structural damage to the Chonhar bridge, which links the Kherson region and Crimea. The bridge is now closed to traffic, but Saldo predicted it would reopen by the end of the day.

In May, the United Kingdom delivered multiple Storm Shadow cruise missiles to Ukraine, giving the nation a new long-range strike capability to use during the counteroffensive against Russian forces, senior Western officials said.

The Storm Shadow is a long-range cruise missile with stealth capabilities, jointly developed by the UK and France, which is typically launched from the air. With a firing range in excess of 250 kilometers (155 miles), it is just short of the 185-mile range capability of the US-made Army Tactical Missile Systems, or ATACMS, that Ukraine has long asked for.

The extended range gives Ukraine the ability to strike deep into Russian-held territory in eastern Ukraine.


Multiple explosions hit road bridges between Crimea and occupied Ukraine: Russian-installed officials

Multiple explosions have been reported on critical road bridges linking Crimea with parts of the Russian-occupied Kherson region in Ukraine, according to Russian-installed officials.

A bridge connecting the Arabat Spit, which is located on Crimea’s east coast, and the Ukrainian city of Henichesk was among the reported targets. Explosions have been heard in the city, according to an unofficial Telegram channel, RIA Melitopol.

Strikes also hit the Chonhar bridge, which links the Kherson region and Crimea, said Vladimir Rogov, a member of the Russian-installed government in Zaporizhzhia.

“A total of three or four hits are reported. The extent of the damage is still unknown,” he said.

The Russian-appointed leader of occupied Kherson, Vladimir Saldo, said Ukraine fired 12 missiles at the Chonhar bridge and nine had been shot down.

Saldo claimed Kyiv used advanced British Storm Shadow missiles in the attack. He also said the strikes hit a village school, and that one civilian who was on the bridge at the time of the attack was wounded.

Saldo added officials were still sorting through details of the attack and the extent of the damage to the bridge, a gas pipeline and nearby towns.

The Russian-appointed head of Crimea, Sergey Aksyonov, also acknowledged the attack, saying on Telegram that a bridge for cars and trucks was damaged, and “repair work is already beginning.”

Russia annexed the peninsula of Crimea in 2014, in a move condemned by Ukraine and its allies as illegal under international law. Kyiv has vowed to retake Crimea along with the territory occupied by Russia since it launched its full-scale invasion in 2022.

Key bridges connect the peninsula to mainland Russia and to areas of Ukraine occupied by Moscow’s troops, which are now controlled by Russia-installed leaders.

Crimean bridges have emerged as key targets in Ukrainian drone and missile attacks, especially as Ukraine vows to ramp up its assault on Russian targets in and around the Black Sea, and as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky says Kyiv’s troops are working “to bring the war back where it came from.”


Kremlin spokesman says no grounds for peace agreement with Kiev currently seen

There are no grounds for any agreement with Kiev on settling the conflict in Ukraine, Russian presidential press secretary Dmitry Peskov said in an interview with The New York Times.

“There are currently no grounds for an agreement. We will continue the operation for the foreseeable future,” he stated.

Russia only want to control those territories that are Russian under its constitution, he continued

“No,” he said when asked whether Russia wants to add more Ukrainian territories.

“We just want to control all the land we have now written into our Constitution as ours,” Peskov added.


Russian bomb hits blood transfusion center in Kharkiv region: Zelensky

A Russian guided aerial bomb struck a blood transfusion center in the country’s northeastern Kharkiv region Saturday, according to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

He said on Telegram that there are dead and wounded victims as a result of the attack, but did not provide any specific numbers.

Zelensky said the blood transfusion center is located in the Kupyansk community, where Russia has recently amassed troops on the eastern front line. A fire broke out at the center following the attack, he added.


Peace talks at Ukraine summit in Saudi Arabia productive and honest so far: Official

The second meeting on restoring peace in Ukraine took place in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, with more than 40 countries participating.

A senior official from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s office said the peace talks, so far, have been productive.

“We had an extremely honest, open conversation, during which representatives of each country could voice their position and vision,” Andriy Yermak, head of Ukraine’s presidential office, stated.

Yermak added all the participants demonstrated their countries’ commitment to the principles of the UN Charter. He described the peace consultations as “very productive.”

Among the participants are senior officials from the European Union, United States, Germany, United Kingdom, China, India, South Africa and Turkey. Russia was not represented.

The meeting is expected to continue through Sunday.

The talks involve Ukraine, Western nations and representatives from developing countries — some of whom have refused to take sides in the conflict. Host country Saudi Arabia is hoping the summit results in support for Kyiv’s peace proposals from beyond its core Western backers.

The meetings are likely to center more around the talking stages rather than concrete steps towards peace, as Ukraine and Russia continue to express conditions that are unacceptable to the other. Despite all this, the conference is being closely watched.


Russia hasn’t made major advances as fighting rages along the eastern front: Ukrainian military

There has been heavy fighting along the eastern front line in the war, with hundreds of recent engagements, but Russia has failed to make any significant advances, a Ukrainian military official said Sunday.

Kyiv’s soldiers have been particularly successful around Bakhmut, where some of the bloodiest fighting of the war has taken place, Serhii Cherevatyi, a deputy commander and spokesperson for Ukrainian forces in the country’s east, told CNN.

Cherevatyi said Ukrainian troops were advancing “hundreds of meters every day” despite a tough Russian resistance. Kremlin forces fired more than 650 shells there in the past day alone, he said.

“The enemy is putting up fierce resistance,” Cherevatyi told CNN.

He added that movement along the front line was broadly static despite the intensity of the fighting.

While Ukraine is advancing on Bakhmut, Russia is trying to move toward Kupyansk, a city to the north in the Kharkiv region, Cherevatyi said.

Six attacks had taken place in settlements close to Kupyansk and Kharkiv’s border with the region of Luhansk. Some involved fighter jets and attack helicopters.

“The Russians are concentrating their forces in this area, with powerful units there. However, we can see their intentions, we know what they want to do and what areas to attack,” Cherevatyi stated.

The Russian military announced its forces had taken a village near Kupyansk on Saturday. Cherevatyi denied claims that Russia had made any ground, “unless we are talking about tens of meters. Nothing significant.”

Cherevatyi also shot down any assertions that Kyiv had lost territory south of Svatove, another hotspot on the front that runs along the border of Kharkiv and Luhansk regions.


Important Ukrainian air base targeted in wave of Russian strikes: Kyiv

Russian forces attempted to strike a key air base in western Ukraine as they launched a wave of missiles and drones overnight into Sunday.

The Starokostiantyniv airfield, in the Ukrainian region of Khmelnytskyi, has previously been targeted.

“The Starokostiantyniv airfield keeps troubling the enemy,” said Yurii Ihnat, a spokesperson for the Ukrainian Air Force command.

“And we can understand why — our pilots are hauling the enemy over the coals,” Ihnat added.

A local official said several homes were damaged in the attack and a fire had broken out on the premises of a grain elevator.

Missiles also struck the Khmelnytskyi region on Wednesday.

Ukraine’s Air Force said Russia fired 70 aerial attack weapons at targets across Ukraine in the latest wave of strikes.

All 27 drones used in the barrage were shot down, as were 18 of the 26 cruise missiles used by Russia’s troops, according to Ukrainian officials. Kyiv did not specify how many hypersonic missiles made it through its air defenses.

“Unfortunately, we do not always succeed in shooting down everything,” Ihnat continued.


Flights at Moscow airport disrupted during a drone alert

Flights at Moscow’s Vnukovo Airport were temporarily disrupted during a drone alert.

Citing the airport’s press service, Russian state news agency TASS said flight restrictions began at 10:26 a.m. in the capital due to “reasons beyond the airport’s control.”

Nearly 30 flights were affected.

Separately, Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin stated a drone attempted to break through Moscow’s air defenses at about 11 a.m. local time but was destroyed on approach.

The Russian Defense Ministry later announced that a drone attack at 11:27 a.m. local time was “thwarted.”

Drone attacks on Moscow and inside Russia have become increasingly common in recent weeks. Officials in Kyiv have warned of more to come.


Russia ‘destroys’ hostile drone approaching Moscow: Mayor

A hostile drone was destroyed by air defences as it approached Moscow on Sunday, city mayor Sergei Sobyanin has said.

Sobyanin wrote on messaging app Telegram: “Today at around 11 am a drone attempted to make a breakthrough toward Moscow. It was destroyed while approaching by air defence forces.”

The Russian Defence Ministry announced the Ukrainian drone was destroyed over the Podolsky district in the Moscow region.

“There were no casualties or damage,” the ministry added.

Temporary restrictions that had been introduced at Moscow’s Vnukovo international airport were lifted, Russian-state run news agency RIA Novosti said.

Russia accused Ukraine of two drone attacks on its capital last week. A skyscraper in Moscow was attacked twice in two days over the past week, according to Sobyanin. Several drones had been shot down but “one flew into the same tower at the Moskva City complex” that was targeted last Sunday.


Japan’s PM deplores ‘Russia’s nuclear threat’ on 78th anniversary of Hiroshima

Japan’s prime minister has hit out at Russian threats to use nuclear weapons as the country marked the 78th anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima.

Around 140,000 people died in Hiroshima on August 6, 1945 and 74,000 in Nagasaki three days later, when the United States dropped atomic bombs on the two Japanese cities days before the end of World War II.

“Japan, as the only nation to have suffered atomic bombings in war, will continue efforts towards a nuclear-free world,” said Fumio Kishida at a ceremony in Hiroshima on Sunday.

“The path towards it is becoming increasingly difficult because of deepening divisions in the international community over nuclear disarmament and Russia’s nuclear threat,” he added.

Speaking at the ceremonies, the Hiroshima mayor urged the abolition of nuclear weapons and called the G7 leaders’ notion of nuclear deterrence a “folly”.

“Leaders around the world must confront the reality that nuclear threats now being voiced by certain policymakers reveal the folly of nuclear deterrence theory,” stated the Hiroshima mayor, Kazumi Matsui.


Russia attacks Ukraine with waves of missiles and drones: Kyiv

Russia launched a multi-wave overnight attack on Ukraine, using 70 air assault weapons, including cruise and hypersonic missiles and attack drones, Kyiv’s air force said on Sunday, according to Reuters.

The air force announced Ukraine’s air defence destroyed 30 out of 40 cruise missiles and all 27 of the attack drones that Russia launched overnight.

In total, in several waves of attacks, from the evening of 5 August to the morning of 6 August 2023, the enemy used 70 means of air assault weapons.

It was not immediately clear whether there was any damage from the attack or what happened to the 10 cruise missiles that were not shot down.

There was no immediate comment from Russia.

Air force spokesperson Yuriy Ihnat stated one of the key targets for Russia’s overnight attack was the Khmelnytskiy region.

Russia had earlier targeted the Starokostiantyniv military airfield in the Khmelnytskiy region at the end of July.


Zelensky says his team has taken an active role in this weekend’s peace talks in Saudi Arabia

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in his nightly address Saturday that his team is taking an active part in the Ukraine peace talks in Saudi Arabia.

According to Zelensky, 42 countries are represented at the event, and “everyone is united by the priority of international law.”

“It is very important that there, on the sidelines of the meeting in Jeddah, bilateral negotiations with partners take place,” he said.

Zelensky added his delegation is working on “consolidation of the world” for the sake of restoring a “just peace.”

The talks — which include representatives from the US — are aimed at developing shared principles to end the war and discussing the kind of security assistance Kyiv will need to deter Russia from ever attacking Ukraine again, US officials have said.

Russia is not present at the summit, and the talks appear mostly aimed at shaping strategies and winning developing nations over to Ukraine’s side, rather than fostering any major breakthroughs between Moscow and Kyiv at this time.


UN condemns Russian attacks on Ukrainian ports, says damaged grain could feed 66 million people

The United Nations condemned Russia for recent attacks on Ukrainian grain storage and port infrastructure in a statement on Saturday.

“I visited the Port of Izmail today and was shocked to see the level of destruction left by the Russian strikes on grain storage facilities on August 2,” Denise Brown, a humanitarian coordinator for Ukraine, said in a statement.

According to Brown, “the thousands of tonnes of grains that were damaged would have been enough to feed approximately 66 million people for a day.”

The humanitarian coordinator added Russia’s decision to pull out of the Black Sea grain deal and its repeated attacks on Ukrainian ports and infrastructure “are causing insurmountable damage to the agricultural sector in Ukraine and may further accentuate hunger for the world’s poorest people.”

In the August 2 attack Brown referred to, overnight drone strikes in Ukraine’s southern Odesa region targeted the Danube River port of Izmail, causing damage to some of its structures, the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense said.

Russia terminated the deal that allowed for the safe passage of Ukrainian food exports on July 17. In the time since, Moscow has unleashed a flurry of attacks on grain supplies in key Ukrainian cities, and the Danube River became a key target.

The Danube ports — which lie on Ukraine’s border with Romania — are Kyiv’s main way to ship millions of tons of Ukrainian grain to the rest of the world.


Russia says Ukrainian attack on oil tanker “won’t be left without a response”

The Ukrainian attack on a Russian oil tanker late Friday “won’t be left without a response,” according to a spokesperson for the Russian foreign ministry.

“There can be no justification for such barbaric actions; they will not be left without a response; the people who orchestrated it will inevitably be punished,” spokesperson Maria Zakharova said in a statement Saturday.

Zakharova stated Kyiv carried out the attack “using new terrorist methods,” and called for Western countries and international organizations to condemn the assault.

The attack, she added, “threatened not only the death of its crew, but also carried the threat of a large-scale environmental disaster.”

(Russia’s Federal Agency for Marine and River Transport has said no casualties were reported and that the ship was not carrying oil when attacked. Ukrainian officials, however, said some crew members were injured and that the tanker was carrying fuel for the Russian military.)

Friday’s attack targeted one of Russia’s biggest oil tankers with a maritime drone, the latest salvo in an emerging Ukrainian military campaign employing unmanned vehicles to attack far-away Russian targets by air and by sea.

Maritime drones are proving very difficult to defend and can travel hundreds of miles to their target. Ukrainian officials have vowed to carry out more attacks on Black Sea targets.

Vasyl Maliuk, the head of the Ukrainian Security Service (SBU), has said any attacks on Russian ships or the Crimean bridge are “an absolutely logical and effective step” and “completely legal” because they occur in Ukraine’s territorial waters.

Zakharova stressed Saturday that she doubted the attack was “completely legal” and called Maliuk’s statement “inhumane.” She argued the attack was “aimed at killing unarmed civilians.”


Zelensky: Russia targets southern and western Ukraine with missiles, including advanced Kinzhals

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said the southern city of Zaporizhzhia and the western Khmelnytskyi region were attacked by Russian Kinzhal and Kalibr missiles on Saturday.

The country’s air defense intercepted at least some of the missiles, the president said in his nightly address. Motor Sich, a Ukrainian company that produces aviation engines and gas turbine units appears to have been the target in Zaporizhzhia, he added.

Zelensky didn’t provide any further information about the attacks.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and the Russian military have touted the Kinzhal, or Kh-47, as an example of Russia’s modernized missile arsenal, claiming that its hypersonic speed makes it extremely difficult to intercept.

Ukraine has acknowledged that the missiles are tough to defend against, though it has knocked at least one out of the sky using a US Patriot defense battery.

The Ukrainian Air Force warned residents earlier Saturday that Russia had fired Kinzhals into the country’s airspace and that the Khmelnytskyi region appeared to be the target. Officials in the region reported explosions, but scant further details were immediately available about the attack.

In his nightly speech, Zelensky reiterated a current Ukrainian narrative: Kyiv is working “to bring the war back to where it came from.”

“The results are there, everyone can see them, and they are fair results,” Zelensky stated, adding, “They show the aggressor state what its aggression means … He who brings problems to others must feel what problems are.”

Ukraine hit one of Russia’s largest oil tankers with a sea drone and attacked a naval base in Russia’s Black Sea port of Novorossiysk in the span of 24 hours on Friday. Kyiv has promised more attacks on Russian shipping and a key Crimean bridge.

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