Thursday, June 20, 2024

Live Update: Russia’s “Special Operation” in Ukraine; Day 563

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:

US poised to approve sending long-range ATACMS missiles to Ukraine

The US is likely to send long-rang guided missiles to support Ukraine’s fight against Russia, according to US media.

Army Tactical Missile Systems, or ATACMS, would give Ukraine a strike range of 190 miles and the ability to target command posts and assembly areas. Ukraine’s other US-donated missiles, HIMARS, currently only have a range of about 50 miles.

“They are coming,” one official who had access to security assistance plans told ABC news, though added the plans could change.

A second official stated the missiles are likely to be included in the upcoming military package. However, it could be months before Ukraine receives them, he added.

The US was initially reluctant to send Ukraine the weapons for fear of escalating the war. But as with the supply of other progressively heavier weapons, it has softened its stance over the course of the war.

Japanese foreign minister arrived in Ukraine

Japan’s Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi has started his visit in Ukraine, the Japanese embassy said Saturday, in a show of support for the country.

“Japanese Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi arrives in Ukraine,” the embassy said on Facebook, posting a video of the top diplomat welcomed by officials at a train station.

The Japanese foreign ministry announced Hayashi would discuss recovery and reconstruction efforts with his counterpart Dmytro Kuleba.

Ukraine plans to provide humanitarian aid to African and Asian countries through Danube ports: Official

Ukraine will use Danube ports to ship humanitarian aid to African and Asian countries, according to Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal.

The government of Ukraine, during a meeting held in Kyiv on Friday, supported a resolution to involve Ukrainian ports on the Danube River in providing humanitarian aid in the form of wheat and corn to those countries in the two continents.

“This is our contribution to global food security. We are working with the UN and our other partners to fully restore agricultural exports from Ukraine and finally unblock our Black Sea ports,” Shmyhal said.

Russia pulled out of a deal to allow the safe passage of ships carrying grain from Ukrainian ports in July. Since then, Russia also ramped up attacks on Ukrainian port infrastructure.

The Black Sea initiative was significant in stabilizing global food markets since the war started in February last year, particularly for poorer countries relying more heavily on grain supplies from the region.

Ukraine harvested 34 million tonnes of crops this year, including 22 million tonnes of wheat, according to the country’s prime minister.

The country’s domestic demand is 6-7 million tonnes per year, Shmyhal added.

UN watchdog warns of increased fighting around Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant

Experts from the United Nations’ nuclear watchdog agency are once again warning of “a potential threat to nuclear safety” at Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant after hearing explosions there over the past week.

The plant – which is the largest of its kind in Europe – is located along the banks of the Dnipro River, next to the town of Enerhodar. It has been under full Russian control since March of last year but is operated mostly by Ukrainian staff, who were initially forced to work by invading Russian troops.

Experts from the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency are stationed at the plant and “have reported hearing numerous explosions over the past week, in a possible sign of increased military activity in the region that could also pose a potential threat to nuclear safety and security at the site,” Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi said in a statement Friday.

“Just over a year after the IAEA established a permanent presence at Europe’s largest nuclear power plant (NPP) to help prevent an accident there during the conflict in Ukraine, the overall situation at the facility remains highly precarious,” Grossi wrote.

The director general added the IAEA team heard about two dozen explosions over the course of last Saturday, Sunday and Monday, followed by several more during “the last few days.”

Reports indicate the explosions occurred “some distance away” from the plant, Grossi said. “Nevertheless, I remain deeply concerned about the possible dangers facing the plant at this time of heightened military tension in the region,” he wrote.

“Whatever happens in a conflict zone wherever it may be, everybody would stand to lose from a nuclear accident, and I urge that all necessary precautions must be taken to avoid it happening,” Grossi stated.

Power plant staff told the watchdog agency that more drone strikes hit Enerhodar, where many employees live with their families, on Thursday morning, according to the statement. No casualties were reported.

The IAEA team was also informed that the plant has reduced the number of on-site staff to minimum levels over the next few days due to the risk of further fighting nearby.

Zelensky on suggestions to negotiate with Putin: It’s impossible to compromise “with a liar”

Ukraine’s president says the example of Yevgeny Prigozhin, the Russian mercenary leader who died in a plane crash last month, shows what happens when you try to make a deal with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Ukraine’s counteroffensive so far has resulted in only modest gains, but Volodymyr Zelensky told CNN he rejected suggestions it was time to negotiate peace with the Kremlin.

“When you want to have a compromise or a dialogue with somebody, you cannot do it with a liar,” Zelensky told CNN’s Fareed Zakaria.

The Wagner leader’s fiery end, after apparently receiving promises over his freedom to continue operating, just weeks after leading a revolt against Putin’s handling of the war, was a warning to be heeded, Zelensky suggested.

While the United States and other key Ukrainian allies continue to supply weapons to Kyiv, stressing that conditions to pursue a “just and durable” peace are not yet in place, several other prominent world leaders, such as Brazil’s Luiz Inácio Lula Da Silva, have put the onus on Ukraine to end the war.

Ukraine’s leader pointed to examples of other countries that have been attacked by Russian soldiers and continue to be partly occupied by Moscow, as support for his position.

“Did you see any compromise from Putin on other issues? With Georgia? With Moldova?” Zelensky asked rhetorically.

First batch of Leopard 1 tanks arrives in Ukraine: Denmark

The first 10 German-made Leopard 1 tanks pledged by Denmark have arrived in Ukraine, the Danish Armed Forces said in a statement on Friday.

An additional 10 tanks have since been delivered from the factory after undergoing renovation, and they should be sent to Ukraine soon, it added.

Denmark has joined efforts with Germany to donate the vehicles, first introduced in 1960s, most of which had been decommissioned in the early 2000s. They will also provide training to the Ukrainian crews that are going to be operating them once they reach Ukraine.

Around 135 of the vehicles are expected to be donated to Ukraine after undergoing refurbishment, having been in storage for nearly 20 years.

In late January, the United States and Germany each announced they would send contingents of tanks to Ukraine, reversing their longstanding trepidation at providing Kyiv with offensive armored vehicles. The announcement by German Chancellor Olaf Scholz that he will send Leopard 2 tanks was coupled with an announcement from US President Joe Biden that he was providing 31 M1 Abrams tanks to Ukraine.

The modern German Leopard 2 tanks were introduced in 1979 and have been upgraded several times since, according to the European Council on Foreign Relations think tank.

No end to Ukraine conflict in sight: UN

With Moscow and Kiev set on achieving their aims by force, there is no hope for a peaceful solution to the conflict in Ukraine in the immediate future, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told reporters on Friday.

“I am not very hopeful that we’ll have a peaceful solution in the immediate future,” Guterres said at a press conference ahead of the G20 summit in New Delhi, India.

“I think the two parties have still decided to move on with the conflict.”

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