Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Live Update: Russia’s “Special Operation” in Ukraine; Day 530

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:

Kiev, west downplaying other initiatives by promoting ‘Zelensky’s formula’: Moscow

By promoting Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s “peace formula,” Kiev and the West are trying to play down the initiatives of other countries, Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said in a statement.

“By promoting Zelensky’s ‘formula,’ the Kiev regime and the West are trying to downplay the great importance of initiatives put forward by other countries and monopolize the right to present them,” she noted, commenting on the Jeddah meeting on Ukraine.

According to the diplomat, “Zelensky’s formula” is a meaningless ultimatum to Russia.

“None of its ten points is designed to find a solution to the crisis through talks and diplomatic efforts, while all of them together make up a meaningless ultimatum to Russia, aimed at prolonging military activities. It is impossible to resolve the issue on such a basis,” Zakharova added.

However, she pointed out that Russia appreciated the mediation and humanitarian initiatives coming from “our friends in the Global South.” “Unlike the Kiev regime, which broke off and banned talks with Russia, we have been and remain open to resolving the crisis diplomatically, and we are ready to respond to truly serious proposals,” the diplomat went on to say.

Zakharova emphasized that the Russian Foreign Ministry had taken note of the consultations on the Ukrainian crisis “that were held in the Saudi city of Jeddah on August 5-6, initiated by the Kiev regime and the Group of Seven nations.”

According to her, Russia expects that its like-minded countries from the BRICS group (Brazil, India, China and South Africa) and other partners will share their evaluations of the meeting. Zakharova also stressed that without inviting Russia and “taking its interests into account, no meeting on Ukraine will have any added value at all.”

She noted that it was only possible to find a comprehensive, sustainable and fair solution to the conflict if “the Kiev regime puts an end to military activities and terrorist attacks, while its Western sponsors stop pumping the Ukrainian armed forces with weapons.”

“The original foundations of Ukraine’s sovereignty should be reaffirmed, that is, its neutral, non-aligned and nuclear-weapon-free status,” the Russian diplomat said.

“The new territorial reality, which came to be as a result of residents of new Russian regions exercising their right to self-determination enshrined in the UN Charter, should be recognized,” the Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman maintained.

“There is a need to ensure the demilitarization and denazification of Ukraine, and the rights of its Russian-speaking citizens and ethnic minorities in accordance with the country’s domestic legislation and international laws,” she added.

“We are confident that the implementation of these elements is fully in line with the idea of international peace and security, which is what Russia is fighting for,” Zakharova concluded.


Russia says it thwarted Ukrainian efforts to advance amid heavy fighting in south

Both Ukrainian and Russian officials have spoken of heavy clashes along the front lines in southern Ukraine, with little territory being won or lost by either side.

It appears that Ukrainian efforts to take the village of Robotyne are yet to bear fruit, after weeks of fighting in the area.

The official Russian news agency RIA Novosti said that its reporters had visited the village, “where not a single whole house remained due to the unsuccessful assaults of the Armed Forces of Ukraine in the last 2 months.”

The reporters shot footage purporting to show wrecked Ukrainian armor in the immediate area.

RIA Novosti added on its Telegram channel that “every time the Russian military stops them on the approaches to [the village]. At the same time, the Armed Forces of Ukraine are constantly shelling the village, where there are still civilians.”

Other Russian sources have also published images and video of the wreckage of Ukrainian armor, purportedly in the Robotyne area.

For the last few days, the Russian Defense Ministry and unofficial Russian sources have said that Ukrainian attacks on the Robotyne area have been repelled, with one Russian military blogger saying that trenches in the area that had been occupied by Ukrainian troops were subsequently retaken.

The Russian appointed head of the occupied part of Zaporizhzhia, Yevgeny Balitsky, claimed that Russian forces had also repelled Ukrainian infantry groups that attempted to advance near Mala Tokmachka and Novopokrovka, villages a few miles southeast of the town Orikhiv.


Russian forces used nearly half a million munitions last week along Eastern front: Ukraine

Russian forces have used nearly 500,000 munitions in the last week alone on the Eastern front, according to Ukraine’s deputy defense minister, who described the situation as “extremely difficult and tense.”

Hannah Maliar said on YouTube there had been “endless assaults” by the Russians, with more than 9,000 instances of shelling, compared to about 8,000 the previous week.

“This is continuous artillery shelling, through which our soldiers have to pass. Enemy spent almost half a million munitions in the East just last week,” Maliar stated.

Russian forced executed several attacks in Donetsk and Luhansk fronts, describing the eastern front lines as the epicenter of hostilities.

Maliar added the Kupyansk direction in the Kharkiv region was “probably the hottest” in fighting and that Russian forces were trying to regain positions they lost last autumn.

“They have such a plan – they want to return the territories they lost in Kharkiv region,” Maliar continued.

But she said repeated Russian efforts to break through Ukrainian defenses did not succeed.

There had also been intensive clashes in the forested areas to the east of Lyman and Russians had “desperately” tried to surround Avdiivka but failed, according to Maliar.

She stated Russian forces risk losing their soldiers to “street fights” in those areas and don’t risk going there because they cannot advance.

Ukraine’s armed forced on the main offensive directions of Melitopol and Berdiansk in the south faced quite difficult positions last week. Maliar added Russian forces were “mining positions” in what could be plans for an advance.

The commander of Ukrainian forces in the south, Oleksandr Tarnavskyi, said late Sunday that Russian forces had attacked Ukrainian positions 21 times and carried out 608 shellings over the past day.

He added that Ukrainian artillery had carried out 1,344 firing missions in the same period and destroyed 21 units of enemy military equipment.


Alleged Russian informant detained in Zelensky assassination plot: Ukraine security service

The Ukrainian Security Service (SBU) announced it has detained a Russian informant “who was preparing a Russian airstrike in the Mykolaiv region during the visit of the President of Ukraine.”

The alleged informant “on the eve of the recent trip of the President of Ukraine to Mykolaiv region, was gathering intelligence about the planned visit,” the SBU said.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky was in the region at the end of July.

The SBU said in a statement that the alleged conspirator “tried to establish the time and list of locations of the approximate route of the Head of State in the territory of the region.”

However, SBU agents had obtained information about the “subversive activities of the suspect” and adopted additional security measures.

In monitoring the communications of the woman, the SBU had established that she also had the task of identifying the location of electronic warfare systems and warehouses with ammunition of the armed forces.

According to the investigation, the perpetrator was a resident of Ochakov, southern Ukraine, and a former saleswoman in a military store on the territory of one of the military units of the region.

She allegedly traveled around the territory of the district and filmed the locations of Ukrainian objects.

The woman has not been named.


Saudi Arabia talks helped ‘consolidate international consensus’: China

China’s Foreign Ministry announced the Ukraine peace talks in Saudi Arabia over the weekend helped “consolidate international consensus”.

China’s Special Envoy for Eurasian Affairs, Li Hui, “had extensive contact and communication with all parties on the political settlement of the Ukraine crisis… listened to all sides’ opinions and proposals, and further consolidated international consensus,” the foreign ministry said in a written statement to the Reuters news agency.

“All parties positively commented on Li Hui’s attendance, and fully backed China’s positive role in facilitating peace talks,” the statement added.

More than 40 countries, including China, India, the United States, and European countries, took part in the Jeddah talks that ended on Sunday.

Russia was not invited to join the discussion.


Russia shoots down drone in region near Moscow: Governor

Russian air defenses shot down a drone southwest of Moscow, a regional governor stated on Monday.

In a Telegram post, Kaluga Gov. Vladislav Shapsha said the incident happened around 2:30 a.m. local time in the region’s Ferzikovsky district.

No injuries or damage were reported, he added.

The was no immediate comment from Ukraine over the reported attack.

A string of aerial drone strikes have peppered Russian cities, including Moscow, throughout the summer.

Though recent strikes on the Russian capital did not reportedly cause any injuries or fatalities, they have unsettled residents and created a sense that the scope of the conflict is drifting across the border. On Sunday, an attempted Ukrainian drone attack briefly halted traffic at an airport in Moscow, according to the city’s mayor.


US, German air defences producing ‘significant results’: Zelensky

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky says the US and German air defence systems are producing “significant results”.

In his nightly video address on Sunday, Zelensky stated the systems, including the US-built Patriot and Germany’s IRIS-T, were proving “highly effective” and had “already yielded significant results”.

He added that Kyiv had shot down a significant part of Russia’s attacks over the past week, which included 65 missiles and 178 assault drones.

Both countries have increased attacks on troops, weaponry and infrastructure in recent weeks as Ukraine keeps up its counteroffensive efforts.


France supplies long-range missiles to Ukraine

President Emmanuel Macron has followed through on his promise to supply Ukraine with the French variant of the Storm Shadow missile, according to footage released by Kiev’s Defense Ministry.

Macron initially announced his decision to provide Ukraine with “long-range missiles” in May, and doubled down on the promise at the NATO summit in Vilnius in July, but until now their delivery was unconfirmed.

In an undated video shared on Sunday by the Ukrainian Defense Ministry, President Volodymyr Zelensky is seen signing a missile attached to a Su-24 jet. The projectile is marked as SCALP-EG with the French flag and a mix of the Ukrainian coat of arms with the Eiffel Tower inside. It remains unclear how many French missiles were delivered and when.

Ukraine’s Defense Ministry referred to the missiles by their British name Storm Shadow, and hinted that the Zelensky-signed projectile was used in a recent strike on two bridges connecting the Crimean Peninsula to Russia’s Kherson Region.


Germany reveals extent of military aid to Ukraine

The German government updated its list of military supplies given to Ukraine, with the latest batch including mine clearing tanks, reconnaissance systems, and howitzers. Berlin has also vowed to send an additional 40 Marder infantry fighting vehicles (IFVs) to Kiev.

The statement said Ukraine received five autonomous mobile surveillance SurveilSPIRE platforms from Germany.

According to its manufacturer, the Estonian company DefSecIntel, the trailer-based complexes are equipped with a drone nest and “built-in AI detection software,” and supposedly do not require field operators. Additionally, Berlin has provided Kiev with long-range Vector reconnaissance drones.

The latest military assistance batch includes two Wisent 1 mine-clearing tanks, and 11 mine plows for the Soviet-made T-72 tanks. Germany has also supplied two Slovakian-made Zuzana 2 self-propelled howitzers, as part of a project jointly financed by Denmark and Norway.

According to the government report, Berlin plans to more than double its funding for the NATO Security Capacity Building Initiative, compared to 2022. The program is designed to “provide support” for the military bloc’s “partners”. Last year, Germany spent €2 billion ($2.21 billion) on the scheme. In 2023, it has allocated €5.4 billion ($5.95 billion) for the project.

“These funds are to be used primarily for military assistance to Ukraine,” the government report said, adding that “additional authorizations” had been made for commitments amounting to €10.5 billion ($11.58 billion) over “the following years.”

The list of Germany’s planned military aid for Ukraine includes a total of 60 Marder IFVs, as well as 100 Leopard 1A5 main battle tanks, together with ammunition for the respective heavy equipment. Berlin also seeks to send 25,500 155mm artillery projectiles and 18,000 man-portable anti-tank weapons to Kiev.

Germany had already supplied the Ukrainian forces with 10 Leopard 1A5 tanks and 18 more modern Leopard 2A6 tanks, as well as 40 Marder IFVs as part of a massive Western military aid campaign ahead of Kiev’s much-touted offensive. Some of the German-made heavy equipment, including Leopard tanks, has since been either destroyed or captured by Russian troops following the start of the Ukrainian operation.


Peace talks in Saudi Arabia conclude with statements of goodwill but no concrete announcements

Delegations from various countries and organizations attending the Ukraine peace summit in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, agreed to continue working together toward “achieving lasting peace in the region,” Saudi state news reported Sunday, but no specific developments were revealed.

“The participants agreed on the importance of continuing international consultations and exchanging opinions in order to build a common ground that will pave the way for peace. They also emphasized the importance of benefiting from views and positive suggestions made during this meeting,” according to a statement from the Saudi Press Agency.

In statements Sunday, the head of Ukraine’s presidential office called the talks “productive” and “extremely honest and open,” while Russia’s deputy foreign minister dismissed the talks as “doomed” to prevent meaningful developments.

The lack of any concrete resolutions announced after the talks does not come as a surprise, as officials had tempered expectations.

The meetings — which did not include representatives from Russia — were seen mostly as a means for laying out future frameworks. They were also viewed as a venue to potentially win support for Kyiv’s peace proposals from beyond its core Western backers like the United States and United Kingdom: The meetings included representatives from developing countries and from world powers that have sought to project varying degrees of neutrality in the conflict, like China and India.

Ukraine and Russia remain publicly committed to prerequisites for direct negotiations that the other side finds unacceptable.


Ukraine’s military confirms striking key Russian routes to Crimea

Ukraine’s military has confirmed that it struck road bridges linking Crimea and Russian-occupied parts of southern Ukraine on Sunday.

The strikes “hit two key routes of communication” for Russia, the Chonhar bridge linking the Kherson region to Crimea and a smaller bridge to the peninsula from the Ukrainian town of Henichesk, the Armed Forces of Ukraine said on Telegram.

Russian-backed authorities and Russian state media had earlier reported that Kyiv was responsible for strikes on the bridges. The Russian-appointed head of occupied areas in the Kherson region accused Ukraine of using British-supplied Storm Shadow missiles in the attack.

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