Friday, June 14, 2024

Live Update: Russia’s “Special Operation” in Ukraine; Day 544

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:

Drones intercepted in two Russian regions: Governors

Russian authorities have stated that drones were intercepted in the Kaluga and Belgorod regions in the west of the country on Monday.

Air defense systems thwarted a drone attack in the Kaluga region’s Kirovsky district, southwest of Moscow, said Governor Vladislav Shapsha on his Telegram channel.

“This morning, despite difficult meteorological conditions, a UAV attack was repelled on the territory of the Kirovsky district. There were no casualties and no infrastructure damage,” added Snapsha.

Governor Vyacheslav Gladkov of the Belgorod region, on the border with Ukraine, said three drones had been intercepted near the village of Solomino, just south of the regional capital. There were no reported casualties or damage.

European gas stocks at nearly 100% of capacity two months ahead of heating season

European gas storage facilities are almost full, long before the onset of the winter heating season, according to the latest data from the Aggregated Gas Storage Inventory (AGSI).

Most European countries’ storage is already at 90% capacity, with Spain’s facilities 100% full, the United Kingdom at 98% and Germany at 92%.

Across the European Union, the average is 91.05% of capacity, as the bloc works to end its reliance on Russian energy.

The EU had set a target of 90% of capacity by November 1, to avoid a scramble for supplies in the northern hemisphere’s winter months.

On Friday, EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said that moves to secure supplies were “well ahead of schedule” in a post on X, formerly Twitter.

“This will help us be safe this winter. Together, we are weaning ourselves off Russian gas. And we keep working in parallel on more diverse energy supplies for the future,” she added.

However analysts warn that a colder-then-expected winter or global supply disruptions could still impact the EU’s energy security.

“The risk of European natural gas shortages in the upcoming winter 2023/24 peak demand season is only marginal, with a mere 10% probability of serious shortages, even with little or no Russian supply,” said political risk consultancy Eurasia.

“Governments, suppliers, and consumers have successfully coordinated in accessing new supply, reducing consumption, and sending available gas to regions and sectors where there are no alternatives,” it added.

Eurasia noted reduced gas demand as well as “an aggressive switch to alternative supply, for instance by boosting North Sea offshore wind for industrial power supply has further helped reduce the EU’s reliance on imported gas.”

Russia slams Danish, Dutch decision to send F-16s

Russia slams Denmark and the Netherlands’ decision to donate F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine, saying it would escalate the conflict.

“The fact that Denmark has now decided to donate 19 F-16 aircraft to Ukraine leads to an escalation of the conflict,” Russian ambassador Vladimir Barbin said in a statement cited by the Ritzau news agency.

“By hiding behind a premise that Ukraine itself must determine the conditions for peace, Denmark seeks with its actions and words to leave Ukraine with no other choice but to continue the military confrontation with Russia,” he added.

On Sunday, Denmark and the Netherlands announced they would supply the jets, with the first six due to be delivered at the end of the year.

Odesa at risk as Russia ‘increases Black Sea missile carriers’

Officials in Odesa are warning of a “very high” threat level after Russia increased its number of missile carriers on the Black Sea.

The southern region’s defence forces said: “In addition to the submarine, a small missile ship came out. Accordingly, the number of Kalibrs [missiles] has been increased to 12″, adding, “The tension of the situation is predictable. The missile threat level has very high.”

Nineteen missiles struck Odesa in July, killing one person and badly damaging the 18th-century Transfiguration Cathedral.

Debris from downed drone injures 2 in Moscow region: Governor

Two people were injured by debris after Russian air defenses thwarted a Ukrainian drone attack near Moscow on Monday morning, the region’s governor said.

In a Telegram post, Moscow Gov. Andrei Vorobyov said debris fell near homes in Istra district northwest of the capital

The drone was one of two intercepted by air defenses early Monday on the outskirts of the capital, according to Russian officials.

It comes after Russia reported several Ukrainian drone attacks across the country over the weekend, including on Moscow.

Moscow’s Vnukovo airport announced Monday it was temporarily suspending flights “for safety reasons,” state-run news agency TASS reported earlier, citing the airport’s press service.

Russia claims to have seized Kharkiv village

Russia claims to have seized a village north of Bakhmut as it pushes north of the besieged city towards Kupiansk.

Ukrainian forces have abandoned Synkivka in Kharkiv while “active hostilities” are taking place nearby, state news agency RIA Novosti reports.

Ukraine’s deputy DM outlines “difficult situation” near embattled Kupiansk

The “situation is difficult” near the city of Kupiansk as heavy fighting rages in eastern Ukraine, Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar said Monday.

Russian forces have been making a push near Kupiansk in recent weeks, with significant shelling of the northeastern city and surrounding areas prompting the first major Ukrainian evacuation in months.

Speaking on national television, Maliar stated Ukrainian forces “repelled attacks south of Pershotravneve and Synkivka villages and east of Petropavlivka village,” in the Kharkiv region where Kupiansk is located, claiming “last week’s battles all ended in defeat for the enemy.”

Fighting is also “quite intense” near the strategic city of Lyman in the Donetsk region, Maliar said. The main fighting is around the nearby Serebryansky Forest, she added.

According to Maliar, the number of attacks in Lyman and Kupiansk have decreased, but “the enemy is currently regrouping, additionally pulling up forces there.”

In Bakhmut, Maliar said Ukrainian troops have taken “key dominant heights” in the northern flank and that “fighting is heavy,” with Russian forces trying to knock Ukraine’s troops out position in the eastern city. Ukraine has liberated 3 square kilometers near the southern flank area of Bakhmut, bringing the total area recaptured to 43 square kilometers, she added.

Elsewhere in Donetsk, Russian forces attempting to encircle the town of Avdiivka “are not succeeding,” Maliar continued.

Meanwhile, Russian forces are trying to regain ground in the village of Urozhaine, which Ukrainian forces reclaimed last week, she said.

“There have been battles over the past week to keep the current positions,” Maliar added.

In the south, Ukrainian forces continue their offensive toward Melitopol and Berdiansk in the Zaporizhzhia region, according to Maliar.

“The enemy’s defense is strong there. They are deploying professional units, paratroopers and military equipment,” she continued, stressing “there can be no quick actions” in this area.

Ukraine may use new Black Sea route for grain shipments: Producers

Ukraine is considering using its newly-tested wartime Black Sea export corridor for grain shipments after other cargo ships follow the first successful evacuation of a vessel on the route last week, a senior agricultural official has said.

“Only one commercial vessel has passed through so far, it has shown readiness to move by alternative routes,” Denys Marchuk, deputy head of the Agrarian Council, Ukraine’s largest agribusiness organisation, told national television.

“Further, there should be a movement of potentially 7-8 more ships… then perhaps in the future these alternative routes will become a corridor for the movement of ships that are travelling with cargoes of grain and oilseeds,” he added.

The Financial Times reported Kyiv was finalising a scheme with global insurers to cover grain ships travelling to and from its Black Sea ports, citing Ukraine’s Deputy Economy Minister Oleksandr Gryban.

Nearly 50 flights disrupted at Moscow’s four main airports

Russia says it foiled attacks by two Ukrainian drones in the Moscow region, but nearly 50 plane flights in and out of the capital were disrupted.

Arrivals and departures from Moscow’s four main airports – Vnukovo, Domodedovo, Sheremetyevo and Zhukovsky – were restricted, disrupting 45 passenger planes and two cargo planes, Russian aviation authority Rosaviatsiya said.

Russian officials have repeatedly cautioned that military drones flying over Moscow – which along with its surrounding region has a population of nearly 22 million people – could cause a major disaster.

Russia downs second drone near Moscow: Defense ministry

Russian air defenses thwarted a second Ukrainian drone attack over the Moscow region on Monday morning, the country’s defense ministry announced.

“The Ukrainian UAV was detected and destroyed by on-duty air defense forces over the territory of the Istrynsky district of the Moscow region,” the ministry said in a statement on Telegram.

The ministry did not say whether the drone caused any damage.

Earlier, the ministry said air defenses downed a Ukrainian drone near the village of Pokrovskoye in the Odintsovo district on the outskirts of the capital.

No casualties were reported in either incident.

Moscow’s Vnukovo airport said Monday it was temporarily suspending flights “for safety reasons,” state-run news agency TASS reported, citing the airport’s press service.

The incidents Monday come after Russia reported several Ukrainian drone attacks across the country over the weekend, including on Moscow.

Ukraine recaptures 3 square kms near Bakhmut

Ukraine claims to have seized three square kilometres (1.2 square miles) around Bakhmut in the last week as it advances on the besieged city.

Hanna Maliar, a Ukrainian defence minister, added that troops had retaken 43 square kilometres (16.6 square miles) around the eastern city in total.

Russia thwarts drone attack near Moscow: Defense ministry

Russian air defenses downed a drone over the Moscow region early on Monday, according to the country’s defense ministry.

“The Ukrainian UAV was detected over the territory of the Moscow region by on-duty air defense forces and was jammed by electronic warfare capabilities,” the ministry said in a statement on Telegram.

The drone crashed near the village of Pokrovskoye in the Odintsovo district on the outskirts of the capital, the ministry noted.

There were no casualties, it added.

Moscow’s Vnukovo airport stated Monday it was temporarily suspending flights “for safety reasons,” state-run news agency TASS reported, citing the airport’s press service.

The incident Monday comes after Russia reported several Ukrainian drone attacks across the country on the weekend, including on Moscow. Russia’s foreign ministry condemned a Ukrainian drone attack on a railway station in the western city of Kursk Sunday that injured at least five people.

Danish PM: Some Ukrainian personnel already in Denmark to start F-16 training

Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said “more than 70” Ukrainian personnel were already in Denmark and getting ready to start training on F-16 fighter jets.

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky has declined to give the total number of Ukrainian pilots who would undergo training in Denmark and later in Romania, citing security reasons.

Denmark has previously announced that the exercises are starting this month, and that Ukrainian pilots will need six to eight months of training.

Frederiksen stated Denmark would provide 19 F-16 jets to Ukraine.

She added “hopefully” six could be delivered around the New Year, eight more next year and the remaining five in 2025.

“Please take this donation as a token of Denmark’s unwavering support for your country’s fight for freedom,” the Danish prime minister continued, addressing Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky.

Zelensky says Netherlands will give 42 F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine

The Netherlands will give Ukraine 42 F-16 fighter jets, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Sunday following his visit to the country.

“I thank Prime Minister Mark Rutte, his entire team, and the Dutch people for the decision on F-16s for Ukraine. Our warriors will receive 42 great combat aircraft,” Zelensky wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter.

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said Sunday that the Netherlands owns 42 F-16s. Rutte added he would look into how many could be supplied to Ukraine but said he did not have a definitive number at the time.

Zelensky traveled on to Denmark after visiting the Netherlands where he met Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen.

“Today we announce that we will provide 19 F-16 jets to Ukraine, we believe Danish fighter jets will help protect your skies,” Frederiksen stated, adding, “The aim of this delivery is to protect Ukraine. We plan to provide the jets closer to the new year, about six of them, then eight in the next year and then another five.”

The meetings come after a US official on Friday said the US had committed to approving the transfer of F-16 fighter jets for Ukraine as soon as training is complete.

Ukraine’s Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov said on Saturday that Ukrainian pilots had begun training.

F-16s are single-engine, multirole jet aircraft, meaning they can be used in air-to-air or ground-attack missions.

Chernihiv attack toll rises: Ukrainian official

At least seven people were killed and 156 others were injured in Saturday’s Russian missile strike on the northern Ukrainian city of Chernihiv, Oleksandr Lomako, acting mayor of Chernihiv, said in an update on Sunday.

The strike — in a city close to the Russian border and far from the front lines — hit a university and a theater, where an event involving drone manufacturers was taking place.

Lomako said on Telegram that of the injured, 41 are hospitalized, and of that number five are in “a serious condition.”

Prior to the outbreak of war, Chernihiv was a vibrant city of 300,000 people. Now, many parts of it have turned to wasteland amid repeated Russian bombardment.

The city came under siege from Russian forces at the start of the invasion in March 2022, and was cut off from electricity and running water. Russian troops began withdrawing from the region later that month, although shelling of Chernihiv continued.

Following the siege, the city’s mayor described Chernihiv as about 70% destroyed.

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