Thursday, June 20, 2024

Live Update: Russia’s “Special Operation” in Ukraine; Day 567

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:

Kyiv says 105 Ukrainian port infrastructure facilities damaged in Russian attacks since mid-July

More than 100 port infrastructure facilities have been damaged in Russian attacks on Ukrainian ports since July 18, Deputy Prime Minister Oleksandr Kubrakov has said.

He also added Ukrainian grain exports had fallen by almost 3 million tons per month since July 18, one day after Russia quit the U.N.-backed Black Sea grain export deal.

“Since July 18, due to Russian attacks on Ukrainian ports, 105 port infrastructure facilities have been damaged and partially destroyed. As a result of strikes on the ports of the Danube cluster and the blocking of seaports, grain exports to Asia, Africa and Europe were reduced by almost 3 million tons per month,’ Kubrakov wrote on Facebook.

UK urges North Korea not to sell arms to Russia

Britain has urged North Korea to end talks over the sale of arms to Russia, as North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and Russian President Vladimir Putin met for a rare summit.

“We urge the DPRK to cease its arms negotiations with Russia and to abide by public commitments Pyongyang has made not to sell arms to Russia,” Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s spokesperson told reporters.

“This visit serves to highlight Russia’s isolation on the global stage, and as the world unites against Putin’s illegal invasion of Ukraine and he has been forced to turn to regimes such as North Korea,” the spokesperson added.

Putin describes talks with Kim as “productive” and “candid”

Russian President Vladimir Putin said his first day of talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un was “highly productive,” involving a “candid exchange of views” on both regional matters and bilateral relations.

The pair spent around five hours together on Wednesday, according to according to Russian state news agency TASS.

Putin went on to confirm that Kim is set to fly to Komsomolsk-on-Amur and then Vladivostok as part of his extensive program during his stay in Russia. He will visit factories involved in the production of both civilian and military equipment. Following that, the North Korean delegation will get a demonstration of the military capabilities of Russia’s Pacific Fleet, he told state news agency Russia 1 after concluding the summit Wednesday.

Kim’s program in Russia will also encompass environmental and educational issues, with visits to the Eastern Federal University and the Russian Academy of Sciences, including a marine biology laboratory, Putin said.

EU should grant Ukraine membership: Top diplomat

The European Union should enlarge and absorb Ukraine into its structure, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has argued in her State of the Union address. The official claimed that the move would not necessarily require amendment of the Treaties of the European Union, the legal basis for the bloc’s existence.

In her speech in the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France on Wednesday, Von der Leyen proclaimed that the “future of Ukraine is in our Union.” She went on to stress that Brussels is faced with the historic task of “completing our Union.”

The European Commission president insisted that the bloc “cannot afford to leave our fellow Europeans behind,” apparently referring to Ukrainians.

“In a world where size and weight matters, it is clearly in Europe’s strategic and security interests to complete our Union,” the official concluded.

According to Von der Leyen, the potential accession of Ukraine could be implemented even before the European Convention and Treaties were amended.

On Wednesday, Bloomberg, citing undisclosed sources within the EU, reported that some member states harbor certain concerns about potential overextension by accepting Ukraine into their ranks and channeling resources toward it. The article noted that worries about corruption in aspiring nations have also been voiced.

Putin hints at potential for military cooperation with North Korea

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said the country is considering and discussing some military cooperation with North Korea, according to Russia state news agency Russia 1.

Asked whether he discussed military cooperation with Kim Jong Un during their meeting on Wednesday, Putin noted “certain restrictions” on sending military aid to North Korea.

But the Russian President admitted that there are areas open for discussion and consideration, suggesting that the topic will be a feature of the North Korean leader’s visit to Russia.

“Well, there are certain restrictions, and Russia complies with all these restrictions,” Putin told state-owned Russia 1.

“But there are things that we can of course talk about, discuss, think about it. And here too there are prospects,” he added.

Kim has previously stressed the role of military satellites as a means to protect national safety and territorial stability and has spoken of their strategic value when deploying military force preemptively, North Korean state media reported in April.

Providing this technology to North Korea would be in violation of international sanctions, which have been imposed to hamper Pyongyang’s ability to build a fully functioning nuclear weapons and ballistic missile force.

US officials have warned the summit could result in Pyongyang supplying weapons for Moscow’s use in its faltering Ukraine war in exchange for sanctioned ballistic missile technology.

Kim tells Putin that Russia will defeat “evil forces”, in endorsement of Moscow’s war in Ukraine

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has made his strongest endorsement of Moscow’s war on Ukraine since his summit in Russia began, telling Vladimir Putin that “Russia will emerge victorious in the fight to punish the evil forces.”

Kim said before a toast at a state dinner with Putin that he is “certain that the Russian people and its military will emerge victorious in the fight to punish the evil forces that ambitiously pursues hegemony and expansion.”

He did not name Ukraine but referred to Russia’s “military operation,” the euphemistic phrasing Moscow uses to describe its illegal invasion of Ukraine.

Kim stated the “Russian military and its people will inherit the shining tradition of victory” and demonstrate their reputation on the front line of the “military operation.”

The North Korean leader added that he and Putin had an “in-depth discussion” with Putin on the “political and military landscape of Korean Peninsula and Europe.”

Kim vowed to establish “a new era of 100-year friendship” between two countries, and proposed a toast to “the great Russia’s new victory” and Putin’s health.

Western countries have warned that Putin will seek an arms deal with Kim to bolster his war, which has stretched for 18 months and left Moscow’s army short of supplies and manpower.

Kim’s full-throated support of the war at the dinner will only bolster those fears. North Korea, which has faced years of international sanctions over its nuclear weapons program, is meanwhile short of everything from hard cash and food to missile technology.

Kremlin calls Putin-Kim talks ‘substantive’

President Vladimir Putin’s talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un were “important and substantive”, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov says, according to an Interfax news agency report.

Speaking after the two leaders held talks in Russia’s Far East, Peskov stated North Korea was interested in cooperation with Russia in the areas of aviation and transport.

Russia sees prospects for cooperating with North Korea in space, the Russian state news agency TASS reports, citing the Kremlin spokesman.

Peskov made the comments after Putin held talks with Kim at a cosmodrome where Moscow conducts space launches.

China and India have ‘low intellectual potential’: Zelensky aide

The people leading India and China lack the ability to predict the long-term consequences of their policies, a senior aide to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has claimed.

Mikhail Podoliak pointed to what he called “the problem of the modern world,” singling out India and China, in an interview with Ukrainian media on Wednesday.

“The problem with these countries is that they do not analyze the consequences of their own moves. These countries, unfortunately, have low intellectual potential,” he added.

Podoliak suggested that even though India has a lunar exploration program, it “does not mean that this nation understands what the modern world precisely is.”

The dismissive remarks were in the context of Beijing and New Delhi’s refusal to support Kiev in its conflict with Moscow. Podoliak complained that India, China and Turkey were “profiting” from the war by maintaining trade with Russia.

“Technically, it is in their national interests,” he acknowledged, before presenting his view of what would benefit China in the long-run.

“China should be interested in Russia disappearing, because it is an archaic nation that drags China into unnecessary conflicts,” he claimed.

“It would be in their interest now to distance themselves from Russia as far as possible, take all the resources it has, and take part of the Russian territory under their legal control. In fact, they will do that,” he added.

Following the interview, the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman urged Podoliak to clarify his remarks, when asked about them during a media briefing on Wednesday.

Podoliak has a record of lashing out at nations, organizations and public figures seen as not sufficiently supportive of Kiev.

Kremlin says Kim and Putin will not sign documents, but may discuss “sensitive areas, such as military interaction”

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told reporters there are no plans for Russian President Vladimir Putin and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to sign documents regarding their Wednesday meeting at the Russian space center, according to state media.

The two leaders met and held closed-door talks for more than an hour at the Vostochny Cosmodrome, Russia’s space rocket launch site, in Amur province in the Far East region.

When asked about reports of arms talks between the two, Peskov said “the full range of relations [between the two countries] implies dialogue and interaction in sensitive areas, such as military interaction,” according to state-run outlet Russia 1.

“All other issues concern only our two sovereign countries,” he continued, adding, “And they should not be a subject of concern to any third state. Our cooperation is carried out for the benefit of the peoples of our two countries, but not against anyone.”

“North Korea is our close neighbor. And despite any comments from the outside, we will build relationships with our neighbors in a way that is beneficial to us and our neighbors.”

Seven people injured in Russian drone attack on Ukraine’s Odesa and Sumy regions

Seven people were injured in a Russian drone attack on the Ukrainian regions of Odesa and Sumy, the head of Odesa region military administration Oleh Kiper said on Wednesday morning.

“A total of seven civilians were injured as a result of Russian attack drones at the Izmail district. Six people in Reni and one in Izmail,” Kiper wrote on Telegram.

“Two men from Reni are in serious condition, in the intensive care unit, today they will be transported to Odesa.”

He added that four others are in a “moderate condition” and will be treated in the city of Reni.

The Ukrainian Air Force also said out of a total of 44 attack drones launched towards Ukraine, 32 were destroyed. The Air Force added the attacks were launched from the Russian town Primorsko-Akhtarsk and Kursk and Chauda in Russian-occupied Crimea.

“Fighter aircraft, anti-aircraft missile units, mobile fire groups of the Air Force and the Defense Forces of Ukraine were involved in repelling the attack,” the Ukrainian Air Force noted.

US already spent over $100bln for supporting Ukraine: Report

The overall number of US funds directed for assistance to Ukraine stands at $110.97 billion at this point, Fox News has reported, citing a document by the Office of Management and Budget of the White House.

The document was prepared in response to a request from a group of Republican senators, submitted to the White House back in January. It contains information about the overall amount of US military, financial and humanitarian aid provided to the Kiev government.

The document says that out of the $110.97-billion total, some $101.19 billion has alreaady been obligated/executed by the Office of Management and Budget.

This sum does not include the new request for more aid to the Kiev government, filed by the administration of US President Joe Biden. It envisages financial assistance of $24 billion, including $13 billion for military purposes.

Kim and Putin begin talks at Vostochny Cosmodrome

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and Russian President Vladimir Putin have officially begun their talks, sitting beside each other in front of flags from both countries at the Vostochny Cosmodrome.

Putin and Kim sat down for talks on Wednesday at Russia’s Vostochny Cosmodrome space center, where Putin told reporters the two “have a lot” to discuss.

“I am very glad to see and welcome you again in Russia. This time, as we agreed, at the Vostochny Cosmodrome,” Putin said while seated alongside Kim.

“Of course, we need to talk about issues of economic cooperation, humanitarian issues, and the situation in the region. We have a lot of questions [to discuss].”

Kim thanked Putin for his invite to the country and said the two countries have “many issues” that they can cooperate on.

“As you said, the agenda between our countries, including the political, economic, and cultural issues; and there are many issues that our two countries need to cooperate and for us to receive help on in our war of independence as the people of our countries anticipate.
In this situation, I believe this moment will serve to raise our bilateral relations to the next step, to a new height,” Kim said.

The North Korean leader went on tell Putin it was an honor the meeting was being held “at this special place, a space launch site which is like the heart of the space power, which your country has the status of, and giving this opportunity for us to have a deeper understanding of space power’s today and tomorrow.”

Kim also praised Russia for having “stood up against the hegemonic forces” to defend its sovereignty and security, a veiled reference to the US and the West, and said he has expressed “the full and unconditional support to all that Russia does in response.”

“And that in the frontline of anti-imperialism and independence, I will always be standing with Russia, I’m using this opportunity to make it clear,” the North Korean leader added.

Ahead of the meeting, US officials warned that a potential arms deal could see Pyongyang provide weapons for Moscow to use in the war against Ukraine.

World not united in opposing Russia: Zelensky

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has stated the world is not yet united enough in opposing Russian war atrocities committed in his country.

Russia wants a policy of genocide to become the new normal, Zelensky said in a video address to Dutch students in The Hague, according to the ANP news agency.

“They want genocide to become something that plays in the background,” the Ukrainian leader added, referring to Russia.

“They want to freeze the war and turn shocking scenes into something common.”

European Council sets up register to hold Russia accountable for damages in Ukraine

The European Council has established a register to record damages caused by the war in Ukraine and to hold Russia accountable, the council announced Tuesday.

The register was set up during a conference held in the Latvian capital of Riga that included representatives from more than 40 countries.

“The ministers of Justice of the European Council member and observer states have adopted a declaration outlining a series of principles (“Riga principles”) to achieve comprehensive accountability for the Russian Federation’s aggression against Ukraine and provide redress to all victims of the war,” the statement read.

The so-called Register of Damage is a digital platform set up “to record the evidence and claims of damage, loss or injury caused to all natural and legal persons concerned, as well as to the State of Ukraine, by Russia’s internationally wrongful acts in or against Ukraine” the council said.

According to the statement, the Register’s budget is “funded by annual assessed contributions of participant states, as well as voluntary contributions.” It added that the Netherlands and European Union “have made substantial voluntary contributions to the startup costs of the Register.”

The European Commission published a survey on Monday indicating that the majority of EU citizens are in favor of continued support for Ukraine.

According to the survey results, “86% approve of the EU continuing to provide humanitarian support to the people affected by the war, 77% accept welcoming in the EU people fleeing the war and 71% back imposing economic sanctions against Russia.”

EU agriculture commissioner urges extension for Ukraine grain import ban

The EU agriculture commissioner has said he believes the European Commission should extend a temporary ban on Ukraine imports into five neighouring EU states as the measure helped boost exports outside the bloc.

“The preventive measures were effective, efficient and stabilising the markets in the five member states and also helped increase exports via Solidarity Lanes,” Agriculture commissioner Janusz Wojciechowski told the European Parliament.

“This is the main argument for prolongation of the preventive measures which is my strong position.”

As a result, farmers in neighbouring states – Poland, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria and Slovakia – have faced increased competition and bottlenecks in their own markets.

G7 foreign ministers condemn “sham elections” held in occupied Ukrainian territories

Foreign ministers of the Group of Seven (Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, UK and US) and the High Representative of the European Union have “unequivocally condemned” the staging of “sham elections” held by Russia in occupied Ukrainian territories over the weekend, according to a statement published on the UK’s government’s website Tuesday.

“These sham ‘elections’ are a further violation of the independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine and of the UN Charter,” the statement read. “Russia has no legitimate basis for any such actions on the territory of Ukraine. The sham ‘elections’ are a propaganda exercise aimed at legitimizing Russia’s illegal seizure of Ukrainian territory,” it added.

“Donetsk, Kherson, Luhansk, Zaporizhzhia oblasts and Crimea are part of Ukraine. We will never recognize Russia’s illegitimate claims to sovereign Ukrainian territory and call on all States to unequivocally reject them,” the G7 foreign ministers stressed.

They also called the elections an attempt by Russia “to create a situation of fait-accompli,” adding the move would “not alter” their approach nor their support to Ukraine “as it fights to reclaim its internationally-recognized territory.”

“We will stand with the Ukrainian people and continue to provide the financial, humanitarian, security and diplomatic support Ukraine requires for as long as it takes,” the statement concluded.

Kremlin-installed officials held what they have described as “local elections” in the occupied regions, a process that Ukrainian officials have also described as a sham and a propaganda move.

Russian state media reported that Putin’s United Russia party largely won the so-called elections.

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