Friday, June 21, 2024

Live Update: Russia’s “Special Operation” in Ukraine; Day 571

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:

NATO head has no doubt Ukraine will join alliance one day

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has said that Ukraine will eventually join the alliance without specifying when it could happen.

“There is no doubt that Ukraine will eventually join NATO,” he stated in an interview published by newspapers of Germany’s Funke Media Group.

“No one knows” when military actions in Ukraine will end, Secretary General noted. “Most wars last longer than suggested at the very beginning, which is why we should be prepared for a long war in Ukraine. We all want quick peace,” he continued.

Stoltenberg believes that if Ukraine stops struggling “it will no longer exist.” Whereas if Russia stops military actions peace will come, Stoltenberg added.

US pursuing war against Russia: Foreign minister on supplies of longer-range missiles to Ukraine

The US controls the military actions in Ukraine, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said in a commentary for the program called “Moscow. Kremlin. Putin” that comes out on the Rossiya-1 television channel, adding that Washington is in fact pursuing a war against Russia by supplying weapons.

“No matter what it says, it (the US) controls this war, it supplies weapons, munition, intelligence information, data from satellites, it is pursuing a war against us,” the minister said as he commented on possible supplies of longer-range missiles to Ukraine by the US. An excerpt of the commentary was posted by journalist Pavel Zarubin on his Telegram channel.

Lavrov added that possible supplies of longer-range missiles to Kiev by Western countries will not change the essence of what is going on in Ukraine.

“I am unable to comment on their statements, but the fact that it will not change the essence of what is going on in Ukraine is obvious. While what is going on is that Ukraine has been prepared, has long been prepared for inflicting strategic defeat to Russia using its hands and its bodies,” the minister continued.

NATO chief urges Germany to increase defence spending

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has stepped up pressure on Germany to increase its defence spending.

“During the Cold War, when Konrad Adenauer or Willy Brandt ruled, defence spending was between 3% and 4% of economic output”, Stoltenberg said in a translation of an interview published in Germany’s Funke Mediengruppe newspapers at the weekend.

In his native Norway, he said, it was similar.

“We managed it then, and we have to manage it again today.”

Stoltenberg recalled the decision of the July NATO summit in Vilnius, according to which 2% of gross domestic product for military spending was “the minimum” – though Berlin continues to fall short of reaching
this target.

He added he expected many allies to exceed that amount and stressed that Germany is “well on its way” to reaching the NATO target.

Six drones destroyed en route to Crimea: Moscow

Russia has destroyed six Ukrainian drones en route to the Crimean Peninsula, officials said.

The Defence Ministry announced the drones were stopped off the western, northwestern and eastern coasts of the Black Sea peninsula, according to Russia’s state news agency TASS.

In recent days, Ukraine has launched a series of strikes on Russian military targets in occupied Crimea and the Russian Navy Black Sea Fleet’s facilities, seeking to undermine Moscow’s war efforts in the critical region.

Two drones destroyed over Moscow: Mayor

In the Moscow region, a drone was destroyed over the Istra district and another over the Ramensky district, Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin said on Telegram, adding there were no casualties or damage from drone debris.

At least 30 flights were delayed and six cancelled at Moscow’s airports, Russian state news agencies said – a frequent move by aviation authorities during drone strikes.

More than 80 defense companies will participate in Ukraine weapons forum: Zelensky

Ukraine will host a defense industries forum this fall that President Volodymyr Zelensky hopes will help the country produce more weapons and ammunition, he said during his nightly address Saturday.

Eighty-six leading defense companies from 21 countries have already confirmed their participation in the forum, Zelensky said, but he did not provide further details.

“Our task is absolutely clear – to provide Ukraine with all the opportunities to produce weapons and ammunition, to provide modern technology to have reliable protection against any form of aggression,” he added.

“This fully reflects Ukraine’s strength and potential – our ability to defend ourselves and help other countries preserve freedom and international order,” Zelensky continued.

The forum will be the first of its kind in Ukraine.

Ukraine tests AI drones that can hit targets several kilometres away

Ukraine is testing AI drones that are capable of pinpointing targets several kilometres away.

Mykhailo Fedorov, the digital transformation minister, said on Saturday: “At the moment it’s all at the testing stage, but some drones we are buying use AI to recognise targets. In a forest, it can detect a target and recognise whether it’s a person, tank, or a certain vehicle. These technologies are being used actively.”

Fedorov added that Ukraine’s aerial drone production is increasing by 120-140 times in 2023.

So far it has increased 100 times by September this year compared to last year.

North Korean weapons unlikely to make big difference in Ukraine war: Top US official

North Korea may be able to boost Russia’s supply of artillery munitions for the war in Ukraine but that is not likely to make a big difference, the top American military officer said as he arrived in Norway for NATO meetings on Saturday.

US Army General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, stated the recent meeting in Russia between North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un and Russian President Vladimir Putin will probably lead North Korea to provide Soviet-era 152 mm artillery rounds to Moscow.

But he stressed it was not yet clear how many or how soon.

“Would it have a huge difference? I’m skeptical of that,” Milley told reporters traveling with him.

He added that while he does not want to play down the weapons assistance too much, “I doubt that it would be decisive.”

Foreign governments and experts have speculated that Kim will likely supply ammunition to Russia in exchange for receiving advanced weapons or technology from Russia.

Pope’s peace envoy returns from Ukraine talks in China

Pope Francis’ Ukraine peace envoy Cardinal Matteo Zuppi returned from a three-day trip to Beijing on Saturday, calling on all sides to participate in negotiations that could bring Russia’s war to an end.

When it comes to pursuing peace diplomatically, Zuppi said, the “ball is not only in Ukraine’s court.”

“Everyone must play,” the peace envoy said, according to the Vatican News service.

“Ukraine has already engaged and presented its proposals. In reality, everyone must participate in the pursuit of peace.”

During a visit to Russia in June, the cardinal met with the Kremlin’s foreign policy adviser Yuri Ushakov, the Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill and Maria Llova-Belova, the government official at the center of an alleged scheme to forcibly deport thousands of Ukrainian children to Russia.

When it comes to pursuing peace diplomatically, the “ball is not only in Ukraine’s court,”
Earlier in June, Zuppi also traveled to Kyiv to meet with Ukrainian officials.

The peace envoy added efforts to seek a diplomatic solution to the war in Ukraine have received “considerable attention from the Chinese government.”

Ukraine and its Western allies have long expressed hope that China and its leader Xi Jinping, a self-described friend of Russian President Vladimir Putin, could play a role in pushing Moscow toward peace.

So far, however, its claims of neutrality and a vaguely-worded 12-point position paper on a “political settlement” for the conflict — which failed to acknowledge Russia invaded Ukraine’s territory — have been met with skepticism.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has long expressed concerns about negotiating with Putin, and pointed to his past record of reneging on agreements.

“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 in an interview in Kyiv last week.

Russia has blamed Ukraine for not coming to the negotiating table.

Russia says it downed Ukrainian drones over three regions

The Russian defence ministry announced on Saturday its air defence systems had destroyed a drone launched from Ukraine over the border into the adjacent Belgorod region.

Earlier, it said Russian air defences had shot down two Ukrainian drones over the Kaluga and Tver regions.

Ukrainian minister vows more drone strikes on Russian ships

Ukraine will be able to conduct more attacks on Russian ships, a Ukrainian minister who has played a key role in building the country’s drone industry told Reuters after a recent series of sea raids.

“There will be more drones, more attacks, and fewer Russian ships. That’s for sure,” Mykhailo Fedorov, the digital transformation minister, said in an interview.

Ukraine has made several attacks in September using sea drones and missiles on Russia’s Black Sea fleet in and around the Crimean peninsula.

Training and tactics behind Ukraine’s counteroffensive failures: Report

The training given by the US and other Western states to Ukrainian troops has not prepared them for their counteroffensive against Russian forces, the Financial Times has reported, citing Western analysts and military sources.

So far, the Ukraine has “not achieved the desired decisive breakthrough,” a source told the outlet, adding that some Western officials believe that Kiev has failed to use the opportunities offered by massive Western military aid at a time of “possibly peak political support.”

Some US officials have privately complained that Ukrainian troops “failed during training to master modern operations that combine mechanized infantry, artillery and air defense.” Ukraine’s losses early into the offensive were reportedly “unsustainable,” the sources claimed, amounting to “nearly a fifth of the NATO kit provided for the counteroffensive” in late May and early June alone. Such setbacks forced Kiev to change tactics and go back to an “attritional approach.”

The Ukrainian forces found it “impossible” to follow a NATO doctrine of combined arms warfare that involves coordinated actions by infantry, armor, artillery, and air defense, the paper said, adding that Kiev’s military still struggles to run operations “above the level of company (200 men) or even platoon (20-50).”

According to analysts interviewed by FT, Western training of Ukrainian troops was “too short” and poorly adapted to conditions on the battlefield.

One Ukrainian Special Forces unit commander complained that if he had followed the “bad advice” he’d received from Western trainers, he would “be dead.”

Military analysts Michael Kofman and Rob Lee pointed to “a poor understanding of how Ukraine’s military fights, and of the operating environment writ large, may be leading to false expectations, misplaced advice and unfair criticism in Western official circles,” in a report on the issue published in early September.

US officials, in turn, have questioned Kiev’s decision to expend its more experienced troops on a “futile defense” of the Donbass city of Artemovsk (Bakhmut in Ukrainian), which was captured by Russian forces in May 2023 following a months-long battle.

Russian forces, meanwhile, continue to “learn from their foes” and adapt their tactics, analysts added. In addition, Moscow’s forces still have the edge when it comes to drone warfare. Russian Lancet-3 kamikaze drones represent a “particular menace” as they are capable of autonomously tracking their targets, a capacity Kiev’s drones lack.

Under the current circumstances, any Ukrainian success will be “slow-going at best” and will continue to depend on Western allies “increasing production of ammunition and other equipment to sustain an attritional war.”

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