Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Live Update: Russia’s “Special Operation” in Ukraine; Day 550

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:

Ukraine’s Air Force makes plea for tools

The Ukrainian Air Force has made a plea for more tools to dispose of Russian “junk” and remove weapons from fighter jets.

Yuriy Ihnat, the spokesman for the air force, said that the focus of international donations tends to fall to F-16 aircrafts and pilot training, but troops need access to basic tools in order to fix and remove parts.

It also enables soldiers to extract anything useful from weapons, he continued.

He added, “It is necessary not only to train pilots but also to provide Ukraine with all types of weapons for this aircraft – missiles, bombs, ammunition – because in addition to jets, tools are needed to dispose of Russian junk.”


Investigators confirm Wagner boss died in plane crash

Russian investigators say they carried out DNA testing to confirm that Yevgeny Prigozhin, the Wagner mercenary chief, died in the plane crash earlier this week.

The investigation committee announced the identities of those who died in the crash match the names on the fight list.

“As part of the investigation into the accident with the crashed airplane in Tver region, molecular genetic studies have been completed. According to the results of the expertise, the identities of all 10 dead have been established, they coincide with the list specified in the passenger list,” the committee added.

Russia has named the dead as:

  • Sergey Propustin
  • Evgeniy Makaryan
  • Aleksandr Totmin
  • Valeriy Chekalov
  • Dmitriy Utkin
  • Nikolay Matuseev
  • Yevgeny Prigozhin
  • Commander Aleksei Levshin
  • Co-pilot Rustam Karimov
  • Flight attendant Kristina Raspopova

Over 20 countries join G7 declaration on security guarantees for Ukraine: Zelensky

More than 20 countries have joined the declaration of the Group of Seven (G7) on long-term security guarantees for Kiev, President of Ukraine Vladimir Zelensky stated on Sunday.

“As of today, more than 20 countries have already joined the G7 declaration on security guarantees for Ukraine. Our team continues its work. Now there are almost 30 [countries] in total, including the G7,” Zelensky said in a video statement published on his Telegram channel.

He also recalled that Ukraine has already started negotiations on a bilateral document on security guarantees with the UK, Canada and the United States.

As Head of the Office of the Ukrainian President Andrey Yermak previously reported, 13 countries joined the G7 declaration on long-term security guarantees: Belgium, Denmark, Ireland, Iceland, Spain, Latvia, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Romania, Finland, the Czech Republic and Sweden. Then Greece joined the declaration. Later, Kiev announced that it had reached an agreement with Athens on the start of bilateral negotiations. Zelensky also announced his readiness to start work on such a document with Portugal.

On the sidelines of the July NATO summit in Vilnius, the G7 adopted a declaration on long-term security guarantees for Ukraine. The document, in particular, states that Kiev should receive a significant military potential.

The Ukrainian authorities hope that the first bilateral agreements with European countries will be signed before the end of this year.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov called this decision erroneous and potentially very dangerous.


Russia shoots down two drones near border

Russia’s defence ministry announced its forces shot down two drones overnight on Sunday in two regions bordering Ukraine.

One drone was shot down over the Bryansk region in Russia’s west and another in the Kursk region, just south of it, the defence ministry said on the Telegram messaging channel.

There was no further information about possible damage or casualties.


Tensions remain high in the Black Sea: UK

Tensions remain high in the Black Sea with skirmishes between maritime and air forces, the Ministry of Defence said in its latest intelligence update.

Conflict has broken out around gas and oil platforms near to Crimea and Odesa, which are valuable strategic sites that can be used as deployment bases.


Three Ukrainian pilots die in jet collision, as Kyiv gears up to receive dozens of F-16s

Three Ukrainian pilots have died after two L-39 trainer aircraft collided in midair in central Ukraine, the country’s air force has said in a statement.

The loss of three pilots will be a blow to Ukraine, which is about to undertake a huge effort to quickly train up its air crews on Western-donated F-16 fighter jets, up to 61 of which have been pledged to Kyiv.

The crash occurred over Zhytomyr region, which lies west of Ukraine’s capital Kyiv. The air force said one of the pilots killed, using the callsign “Juice”, had become well known after giving numerous interviews to international media.

“We express our condolences to the families of the victims. This is a painful and irreparable loss for all of us,” the air force wrote on the Telegram app, adding that an investigation into the circumstances of the crash was taking place.


Ukraine ministry: Any move to extend ban on grain imports is ‘unacceptable’

Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry has condemned as “unacceptable” any continuation of EU import restrictions for its grain after a number of member states alluded to supporting an extension.

In a statement, the ministry said, “We consider it categorically unacceptable to continue trade restrictions on the import of agricultural products of Ukraine after the ban of the European Commission expires on September 15.

There is particular opposition in Poland, Slovakia, Bulgaria, Romania and Hungary towards Ukrainian grain imports due to fears they could undercut local farmers.


Der Spiegel investigation: Nord Stream pipeline sabotage points to Ukraine

German magazine Der Spiegel has published a lengthy and detailed investigation into the attack on the Nord Stream pipeline.

It cites German investigators – who are undertaking “the most important investigation of Germany’s postwar history because of its potential political implications” – and reported that “a striking number of clues point to Ukraine”.

According to Der Spiegel’s sources, investigators are certain that the saboteurs were in Ukraine before and after the attack. Indeed, the overall picture formed by the puzzles pieces of technical information has grown quite clear.

The possible motives also seem clear to international security circles: The aim, they says, was to deprive Moscow of an important source of revenue for financing the war against Ukraine. And at the same time to deprive Putin once and for all of his most important instrument of blackmail against the German government.”


Ukraine detains more military recruitment officials amid ongoing corruption purge

The Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) has detained four more employees of military enlistment offices as part of an ongoing crackdown on corruption, the agency announced in a statement.

Those detained are employees in military enlistment offices and heads of military medical commissions “who ‘helped’ evaders to avoid conscription and escape abroad,” the SBU said.

“In exchange for money, the officials offered conscripts to evade mobilization on the basis of fictitious documents on their medical unfitness for military service,” SBU added.

The cost of such “services” was up to $10,000 per person, the SBU said, adding “the amount depended on the timeframe for ‘resolving the issues’ and the financial capabilities of the ‘clients.'”

The head of the district military enlistment office and the head of one of the capital’s military medical commissions were detained “for selling fake medical certificates about the presence of severe diagnoses,” the SBU said.

“The evaders used the purchased fake documents to avoid conscription and further travel outside Ukraine,” it added.

The head of a district military enlistment office in the northeastern Kharkiv region was detained after illegally gaining around $300,000 from potential conscripts. He also involved three officials of a local hospital in illegal activities, according to the SBU.

“In exchange for bribes, they ‘found’ ‘health problems’ in conscripts, which became a formal basis for deregistration,” it said.

SBU cyber specialists also shut down a corruption scheme in Odesa involving the secretary of the local military medical commission.

“Together with a Kyiv lawyer and two accomplices, they set up a large-scale sale of falsified documents on unfitness for military service,” the SBU added.

The suspects searched for their clients all over Ukraine and then registered them with the Odesa military enlistment office “to ‘write them off’ from military service,” according to the agency.

“Currently, the secretary of this military medical commission and her accomplices have been detained red-handed. They have already been notified of suspicion and the issue of choosing a preventive measure is being decided,” it said.

Investigations involving all the cases are still active, the SBU added. The operation was conducted jointly with the National Police under the supervision of the Prosecutor’s Office.

The offenders face up to 10 years in prison as well as confiscation of property, according to the agency.

Earlier in August, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said he has dismissed all officials in charge of regional military recruitment centers amid a widespread corruption scandal. On August 11, he said there were 112 criminal proceedings against officials at military registration and enlistment offices.

At the beginning of the year, Zelensky also fired a number of senior officials over involvement in a scandal linked to the procurement of wartime supplies.

The investigations are part of a major government shakeup aimed at eradicating corruption. Tackling corruption has been a key condition for Ukraine’s bid to join the European Union.


Man killed by shrapnel in Russia’s Belgorod region: Governor

A man was killed after Ukraine dropped an explosive device from a drone in Russia’s western Belgorod region Saturday, according to regional Gov. Vyacheslav Gladkov.

Gladkov said the attack came “when the man was in his garden mowing grass.”

“Shrapnel wounds received as a result of the explosion caused him to die,” the governor wrote in a Telegram post Saturday.

Ukraine has not yet commented on the claim, and often declines to directly acknowledge attacks on Russian soil.

Earlier Saturday, Gladkov stated six civilians had been wounded by Ukrainian shelling in Belgorod, which borders Ukraine, and that the region’s air defenses shot down another attack drone.

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