Live Update: Russia’s “Special Operation” in Ukraine; Day 558

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:

Putin says Ukraine counteroffensive ‘a failure’

Russian President Vladimir Putin has once again claimed that Ukraine’s counteroffensive to retake lank seized by Russia has been a “failure”.

“It is not that it is stalling. It is a failure,” Putin told a news conference in Sochi. “At least today this is what it looks like. Let’s see what happens next.”

Putin has repeatedly claimed that Ukraine was not making any headway against Russian defensive positions in Moscow-occupied territories.
However, Russian military bloggers have reported front-line problems for Moscow’s troops.

Erdogan calls on Ukraine to soften stance on Russia with regard to grain export deal

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said he believes a solution can be found soon to revive the Black Sea grain export deal, including filling the remaining gaps.

After meeting Russian President Vladimir Putin, the Turkish president also told reporters that “Ukraine needs to especially soften its approaches in order for it to be possible for joint steps to be taken with Russia”.

He added that more grain needed to be destined for Africa rather than European countries.

Putin has restated after meeting Erdogan that Moscow would be ready to return to the Black Sea grain deal once all agreements relevant to the accord are fulfilled.

The Russian president repeated previous criticism of the West over the deal, which Moscow quit in July.

Putin also stated that the Black Sea corridors should not be used for military purposes.

Ukraine’s foreign minister expects Zelenskyy to talk to Erdogan after Sochi meeting

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba has said he expects President Volodymyr Zelensky to talk to Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan after the latter’s meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Sochi.

“I am convinced that, based on the results of Erdogan’s conversation with Putin, there will be contact between President Erdogan and President Zelenskyy,” Kuleba said in Kyiv.

“There is trust in relations between President Zelensky and President Erdogan,” he added.

Russia says it repels drone attack on power plant in Bryansk region

Alexander Bogomaz, the governor of Russia’s Bryansk region says the country has successfully thwarted a Ukrainian drone attack on a thermal power plant in the southern region of Bryansk.

He added that no one was injured and the was no damage to the facilities. He also said that another drone crashed in a field.

Kremlin says first half of Putin-Erdogan talks constructive

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov has said in a video posted on Telegram by a Russian state media journalist that the first part of talks between President Vladimir Putin and Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan had been very constructive.

Separately, Russian state news agency RIA reported that Peskov stated no documents are expected to be signed on conclusion of the talks.

Talks in Sochi between Putin and Erdogan have finished after three hours, according to a report by Russian state news agency TASS.

‘Our strategic political goal is opening EU accession talks’: Zelensky

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky has stated that Ukraine’s strategic political goal is “opening EU accession talks.”

“The European Commission has made seven recommendations to Ukraine. We’ve already completed a number of them,” he said in a statement on the social media platform X (formerly known as Twitter).

“For the rest, the Ukrainian parliament must demonstrate tangible results. Timely results,” the president added.

Ukraine sentences Russian soldier to 12 years for torture of civilian

A Russian soldier has been convicted of torturing a Ukrainian civilian and sentenced to 12 years in prison, according to a report by a regional prosecutor’s office in Ukraine.

The Chernihiv District Court found the soldier guilty of illegally detaining the man with another soldier in March 2022 during the temporary occupation of the village of Lukashivka in the northern region of Chernihiv.

“They used physical violence against him in order to learn information about the location of the positions of the Armed Forces. Not having received the necessary data, the occupiers took the man to the territory of the homestead, knocked him to the ground and began to beat him,” the prosecutors said.

“Then the accused hit the victim on the head with the butt of a machine gun, and the second Russian serviceman shot him in the leg with an automatic firearm,” they added.

Russia “open” to negotiations on grain deal: Putin

Russian President Vladimir Putin has told visiting Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan that Russia is ready to discuss resurrecting the Black Sea Grain Initiative.

“We have a lot to talk about, including ensuring security in the region,” Putin told Erdogan, in an exchange ahead of their talks in Sochi.

“We will not ignore the topic of the Ukrainian crisis. I know you intend to raise questions about the grain deal, we are open to negotiations on this issue,” Putin said.

Meanwhile, Erdogan told Putin that talks on the grain corridor will be “very important.”

“Today everybody is watching the grain corridor issue here,” Erdogan stated, adding, “I believe the message at the news conference will be a very important step, especially for underdeveloped countries in Africa.”

Russia allowed the Black Sea grain deal, brokered by the United Nations and Turkey, to lapse in July. The deal guaranteed the safe passage of Ukrainian grain from its Black Sea ports.

Since withdrawing from the deal, Russia has resumed its blockade of Ukraine’s ports and subjected them to heavy bombardment, targeting storage facilities and infrastructure and sparking fears for global food security.

Putin also noted on Monday that last year the trade turnover between Russia and Turkey grew by 86%, and “in the first half of this year the positive trend continues.”

Putin and Erdogan begin talks in Sochi

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan have begun talks in the Russian city of Sochi on the Black Sea coast.

Television coverage showed the two men shaking hands before talks began. Greeting the Turkish leader on Monday, Putin stated: “If you want to, come on holiday here, it’s very nice here.”

“This is our first personal meeting since the elections in Turkey. I would like to congratulate you once again on the [election] results,” Putin said to Erdogan.

The talks are expected to cover the possibility of resurrecting the Black Sea Grain Initiative, from which Russia withdrew in July.

There will also be talks, according to the Russian side, on a proposal from Moscow to supply 1 million tons of Russian grain to Turkey, which would then be distributed to countries most in need, with financial assistance from Qatar.

Following bilateral talks in Moscow with his Turkish counterpart last week, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov reiterated that Russia would be ready to rejoin the Black Sea grain deal as soon as it sees guarantees that benefits promised to Russia will be implemented.

The supply of natural gas from Russia to Turkey may also be part of the discussions on Monday, according to the official Russian news agency TASS.

Ukraine’s defence minister submits resignation letter

Ukrainian Defence Minister Oleksii Reznikov submitted his resignation letter to the chairman of parliament, he said in a post on X.

“It was an honour to serve the Ukrainian people and work for the (Ukrainian army) for the last 22 months, the toughest period of Ukraine’s modern history,” Reznikov added.

President Volodymyr Zelensky nominated Rustem Umerov, a Crimean Tatar who has been head of the State Property Fund since last year, to replace Reznikov.

Ukraine claims limited gains on southern front near Bakhmut

Ukraine announced its forces had made limited gains against Russian forces along the southern front – the focus of its counteroffensive – and clawed back territory near Bakhmut in the east.

“The defence forces of Ukraine are continuing offensive operations in the Melitopol sector. Our forces had success near Novodanylivka and Novoprokopivka,” Deputy Defence Minister Ganna Malyar said on state television,

She added that Kyiv’s forces had also captured three square kilometres (about one square mile) near the war-battered town of Bakhmut.

Four Ukrainian military boats destroyed in Black Sea: Russia

Russia says it destroyed four Ukrainian military boats carrying troops in the Black Sea.

“Naval aviation aircraft of the Black Sea Fleet destroyed 4 ‘Willard Sea Force’ US-made high-speed military boats with landing groups of the Armed Forces of Ukraine,” Russia’s Defence Ministry wrote on Telegram.

The ministry added the boats were “traveling in the direction of Cape Tarkhankut on the Crimean coast”, without providing further details.

Earlier on Monday, the ministry announced it had repelled a separate Ukrainian attack over the Black Sea.

“Ukrainian unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) were destroyed in the air over the Black Sea near the Crimean Peninsula,” it wrote on Telegram.

Ukrainian forces down 17 drones in Odesa, strikes damage buildings

Ukrainian forces have downed 17 Russian drones over the southern Odesa region, officials said, adding that strikes caused damage in a district on the Danube River that borders NATO member Romania.

“Seventeen drones were shot down by our air defense forces,” region’s Governor Oleg Kiper wrote on Telegram, adding there were no civilian casualties.

“In several settlements of Izmail district, warehouses and production buildings, agricultural machinery and equipment of industrial enterprises were damaged.”

Zelensky fires Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has dismissed Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov, saying the ministry needs “new approaches” as the war with Russia enters its 19th month.

“This week, parliament will be asked to make a personnel decision. … I have decided to replace the minister of defense of Ukraine. Oleksii Reznikov has gone through more than 550 days of full-scale war,” the Ukrainian leader said.

Zelensky nominated Rustem Umerov, the former people’s deputy of Ukraine, to become the new defense minister.

“The Verkhovna Rada (legislature) of Ukraine knows this person well, and Mr. Umerov does not need any additional introductions,” Zelensky continued, adding, “I expect parliament to support this candidate.”

Reznikov’s removal comes in the wake of a number of corruption scandals involving Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense. While Reznikov has not been implicated in any of them, the scandals have still been seen to damage him by association.

Zelensky has stated rooting out corruption across Ukraine’s government is vital to Kyiv’s chances of attaining long-awaited membership in NATO and the European Union.

The Ukrainian president made cracking down on internal scandals a central issue in his campaign for office.

On Saturday, one of Ukraine’s most powerful oligarchs and a key Zelensky supporter, Ihor Kolomoisky, was arrested as part of a fraud investigation.

South Africa says inquiry found no evidence of arms shipment to Russia

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa says an inquiry into a United States allegation that a Russian ship had picked up weapons in South Africa late last year found no evidence that the vessel had transported weapons to Russia.

“None of the allegations made about the supply of weapons to Russia have been proven to be true,” Ramaphosa stated in an address to the nation.

“No permit was issued for the export of arms and no arms were exported,” he added.

In claims that sparked a diplomatic row, the US ambassador to South Africa, Reuben Brigety, told local journalists in a May briefing that Russian cargo ship Lady R had uploaded weapons at a naval base near Cape Town in December.

F-16 jets to be deployed by next spring: DM

In an interview, Ukraine’s Minister of Defence Oleksii Reznikov has expressed hope that the state-of-the-art F-16 fighter jets supplied by Ukraine’s allies will be deployed against Russia by next spring.

Reznikov said that pilots had to be trained on the jets, and infrastructure, experts and maintenance facilities had to be maintained before they are deployed to the front lines.

The Netherlands, Denmark and Norway have all promised Ukraine the jets.

Reznikov added he had to write several letters with assurances that these NATO weapons would be used for defence purposes only and not on Russian territory.

Ukraine expects boom in drone production

Ukraine intends to increase drone production as early as this autumn, the Ukrainian defence minister was quoted as saying, as the country conducts more frequent drone attacks on Russian territory.

“I think this autumn there will be a boom in the production of various Ukrainian drones: flying, floating, crawling, etc., and this will continue to grow in volume,” Oleksii Reznikov told the state-run Ukrinform news agency.

He said one reason for the growth of production was that authorities had reduced various regulations and laws.

“So we rewrote regulations… and simplified the processes. And I believe that we also succeeded in that and gave us the opportunity for such a booster. Especially for drone manufacturers who started production from garages,” he continued.

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