Friday, July 12, 2024

Live Update: Russia’s “Special Operation” in Ukraine; Day 572

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 has liberated 300 square kilometers but minimizing troop losses more important: Senior official

Ukraine has liberated 300 square kilometers (115 square miles) of territory from Russia since the start of its summer counteroffensive, but minimizing casualties as troops move forward in tough conditions has been its priority, Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar said.

In an interview with CNN Senior International Correspondent Frederik Pleitgen, Maliar stated Kyiv’s counteroffensive has progressed slower than anticipated but that pace was designed to save troops’ lives.

“Contrary to the military science, Ukrainians risked and started an offensive when the enemy had more weapons and more people,” she continued, adding, “Military science tells you have to do it when you have superiority. That is not possible in our situation. We have to fight as it is.

“It’s not about number of liberated kilometers. It’s about our forces [being] able to move forward in these conditions.”

Maliar also claimed the Russians were losing up to eight times as many troops as the Ukrainians in the east of the country. Western officials and independent analysts believe Moscow has consistently suffered heavier losses.

Maliar also reiterated the counteroffensive “is going according to the plan,” but said Ukraine needed additional international support and repeated Ukrainian calls for more weapons and ammunition.

“Ukrainian people are very grateful for all the support from Western countries. We realize that our victories are impossible without the help from the West,” she added.

Despite the difficulties, Maliar believes in Ukraine’s ultimate success.

“We believe in our victory. We are on our land, there is no falling back. We will defend our country till we liberate all of our territories,” she said.

Ukraine planning to sue 3 countries for banning its agricultural products

Kyiv plans to sue Poland, Hungary and Slovakia for refusing to drop a temporary export ban on Ukrainian agricultural products, Ukraine trade representative Taras Kachka reportedly stated.

In an interview with Politico, Kachka said Ukraine planned to start legal proceedings Monday and would retaliate by targeting fruit and vegetable exports from Poland.

It is important to prove that these actions are legally wrong,” he added.

Kachka’s remarks come after the European Union said on Friday that it planned to suspend a temporary ban on the export of Ukrainian wheat, maize, rapeseed and sunflower seed to Bulgaria, Hungary, Poland, Romania and Slovakia. The measure was put in place to counter the risk of farmers in these countries being undercut by a bottleneck of cheap Ukrainian grain.

However, Poland, Hungry, and Slovakia opposed last week’s decision and said they would defy it. CNN has reached out to Poland’s Ministry of Agriculture, Hungary’s Ministry of Agriculture, and Slovakia’s Ministry of Agriculture for comment.

Kachka told Politico that Kyiv plans to sue the countries at the World Trade Organization rather than through its own trade accord with the EU.

He added that such acts of defiance show a lack of unity within the bloc and pose a “ systemic concern.”

“I think that all the world should see how member states in the EU behave towards trade partners and their own Union, because it can influence other states as well,” Kachka said.

Ukraine’s counteroffensive has been successful: Top Zelensky aide

Ukraine’s counteroffensive against Russian forces has been a success, an adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said.

In an interview with CNN, Zelensky aide Mykhailo Podolyak cited having broken through Russian’s first line of defense as a reason of optimism in Ukraine’s fight against the Kremlin — a military power that, Podolyak explained, “everyone was afraid of” before Moscow’s full-scale invasion.

The initiative is entirely with Ukraine,” Podolyak stated, adding, “Even Russian officials like Putin say that they are repelling Ukraine’s offensive operations. They don’t talk about their counteroffensive, they only talk about Russia’s defensive war.”

After weeks of anticipation, Ukraine’s counteroffensive began in June but got off to a slower-than-expected start, facing tough resistance from Russian troops. Kyiv’s forces have in recent weeks notched some important gains on the front lines.

Podolyak added that Ukraine was preparing to fight to liberate Crimea, which was annexed by Russia in violation of international law in 2014.

Podolyak said Ukraine needs from its Western partners more air support, particularly F-16 fighter jets; long-range missiles to strike deep into Russian-controlled territories; and ammunition.

All but one of Ukraine’s 7 deputy defense ministers have been dismissed in a major shakeup

Seven high-ranking officials have been dismissed from the Ukrainian defense ministry, cabinet minister Oleh Nemchinov said Monday, the biggest shakeup of personnel at the top of Ukraine’s defense establishment since its leader was ousted earlier this month.

Six of Ukraine’s seven deputy defense ministers were fired, as was the country’s state secretary for the ministry, a position that is seen as more administrative.

The comes in the wake of a number of corruption scandals involving the ministry — and a little more than two weeks after Oleksii Reznikov lost his job as defense minister. President Volodymyr Zelensky said Reznikov was being replaced in order to bring “new approaches” to the post. The president has since tapped Rustem Umerov as his replacement.

Though Reznikov was not implicated in any of the scandals, they still appeared to damage him by association.

Before Russia’s full-scale invasion, rooting out corruption was the top priority for Zelensky’s administration. His promise to do so was one of the reasons for his unprecedented political success.

Zelensky, a former comedian, had zero political experience at the time of his election in 2019. But he managed to tap into the nation’s deep-rooted disappointment and disgust over rampant corruption.

It’s unclear whether the dismissals on Monday were connected to allegations of corruptions or were part of the new leadership cleaning house, though Umerov hinted at the latter in a Facebook post.

“Rebooting. We started. We continue. (The) Ministry continues to work as usual,” Umerov wrote.

Zelensky to make case for Ukrainian victory at UN: Adviser

Volodymyr Zelensky will make the case for a speedy victory over Russia in his addresses to the United Nations and in his meeting with US President Joe Biden this week, a senior adviser to the Ukrainian president said.

In an interview with CNN Senior International Correspondent Frederik Pleitgen, adviser Mykhailo Podolyak stated Zelensky would use the platforms to explain “why this war should have a fair ending,” and “that helping Ukraine is an investment in stability, in global rules, in the restoration of international law.”

Zelensky will also stress that “this war can be accelerated if there is a sufficient amount of weapons for Ukraine,” Podolyak added.

World leaders are meeting in New York starting Monday for the UN General Assembly.

Aside from an address to the assembly, Zelensky also has plans to hold several meetings with other world leaders in New York, according to people familiar with the plans. After that, the Ukrainian president is set to go to Washington to meet with Biden.

Zelensky rules out land concessions to Russia

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has ruled out any territorial concessions to Russia as part of a potential peace deal, insisting that Kiev must press onward with its faltering offensive, regardless of the weather.

In an interview with CBS News released on Sunday, when asked whether Ukraine would cede any land to Moscow for peace, Zelensky said: “No. This is our territory.”

He would not, however, say whether this applies to Crimea, which overwhelmingly voted to join Russia in a referendum in 2014 following the Western-backed Maidan coup in Kiev. Neither Ukraine nor its Western backers have recognized the results of the vote.

Zelensky also acknowledged that Kiev’s much-hyped counteroffensive, which has been underway for more than three months, “is not very fast.” Nevertheless, he said Ukraine would continue on regardless of the weather.

“We need to liberate our territory as much as possible and move forward, even if it’s less than [half a mile or] a hundred [yards]… We can’t lose time. Forget about the weather, and the like,” he stated, adding that even if the ground troops are unable to move, Ukraine will double down on drone attacks.

Erdogan says everybody wins with peace in Ukraine

There can be no losers where peace is concerned in Ukraine, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan stated at a dinner hosted by the Turkish American National Steering Committee in New York.

“We have achieved many diplomatic successes. Believing that ‘there is no winner of a war, and a loser of a peace”, we continue our efforts in a multifaceted manner,” Erdogan said in a speech posted on the Turkish presidential office’s website.

In his speech, the Turkish leader also pointed to Ankara’s increasingly critical role in resolving regional and global crises.

Erdogan has repeatedly announced that Ankara favors bringing Moscow and Kiev back to Istanbul for talks. The two sides last held negotiations in March 2022, but the agreements reached there were torpedoed by Ukraine. Erdogan has also signaled that his country is ready to host negotiations between the leaders of Russia and Ukraine. Prior to Erdogan’s September visit to Russia, Turkey’s top diplomat Hakan Fidan discussed peace efforts with his Ukrainian and Russian counterparts in Kiev and Moscow.

Ukraine recaptures key village near Bakhmut

Ukraine has recaptured Klishchiivka, a key village in the Donetsk region in eastern Ukraine, President Volodymyr Zelensky said Sunday night.

Zelensky’s office posted a picture on social media earlier in the day, indicating Ukraine had liberated this key area that has been critical to Ukraine’s counteroffensive in the east. In the photo, five soldiers are holding flags and posing for the camera in front of a church.

“[T]oday I would like to especially recognize the warriors who are gradually regaining Ukraine’s territory in the area of Bakhmut,” Zelensky said during his nightly address.

The area southwest of Bakhmut has been a focus for Ukraine’s counteroffensive in the east throughout the summer, and Zelensky will be keen to highlight this apparent success when he meets with world leaders, among them United States President Joe Biden, on his upcoming trip to the US this week for the United Nations General Assembly.

In a separate video release also filmed in front of the church, one of a group of six soldiers standing together declares the liberation of Klishchiivka has been completed.

The sound of artillery explosions can be heard throughout the short clip, some sounding no more than 500 meters away, which the soldier seems to acknowledge, saying, “the enemy does not give up attempts to re-capture [the village], using all possible means of fire. But we are standing firm and confident.”

The video shows the church has suffered massive damage during months of fighting, including the loss of its green cupola.

The announcement that Klishchiivka had been recaptured came two days after Ukraine’s forces claimed Andriivka, a small hamlet immediately to the south.

With the summer counteroffensive now well into its fourth month, Ukraine has come under increasing pressure to convince key Western partners that Russian forces can be pushed back.

Global community will ‘unite’ as Russia-N Korea relations deepen: S. Korean president

South Korea’s president stated that the international community “will unite more tightly” to cope with deepening military cooperation between Russia and North Korea as he plans to raise the issue with world leaders at the United Nations General Assembly this week.

Yoon Suk Yeol made the comments in written responses to questions from The Associated Press ahead of his departure to New York.

Worries about Russian-North Korean ties have flared since North Korean leader Kim Jong Un travelled to Russia last week for a summit with President Vladimir Putin and to tour a slew of high-profile military and technology sites.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has stated Moscow wanted to develop “equal and fair cooperation” with North Korea despite sanctions imposed on Pyongyang by the UN Security Council.

“We have not declared sanctions against North Korea, the Security Council did that. So appeal to the Security Council and we will develop equal and fair cooperation with the DPRK,” Lavrov said in a state TV interview, excerpts of which were broadcast on Sunday.

The Kremlin earlier announced it abides by UN sanctions but that it has a right to develop neighbourly relations, including in relation to sensitive topics.

Zelensky will speak to senators this week as Congress weighs additional aid for Ukraine

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is set to speak to United States senators during his visit to Capitol Hill on Thursday, a leadership aide said.

The Ukrainian president will give remarks at 10 a.m. ET during an all-Senators meeting. CNN reported last week that Zelensky was not expected to address a joint session of Congress, according to a GOP source familiar.

The visit comes as Congress is weighing a White House request for additional aid to Ukraine, but its passage remains in doubt, with the GOP fiercely divided over the issue. Zelensky addressed a joint session last December, but opposition to Ukraine funding has grown particularly inside the House GOP.

Zelensky will also meet with President Joe Biden at the White House. He last traveled to the United States in December, his first time leaving Ukraine since Russia’s invasion began.

Aside from his trip to Washington, DC, around the United Nations General Assembly meetings, Zelensky plans several meetings with other world leaders in New York, according to people familiar with the plans.

Among his objectives will be trying to persuade nations that haven’t taken a firm stance against the war to be more forceful in their condemnation of Russia.

US national security advisor discusses war in Ukraine with China’s foreign minister

United States National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan met with China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi in Malta over the weekend.

They discussed a range of issues, including the war in Ukraine, according to a statement from the White House.

“The two sides had candid, substantive, and constructive discussions” and have committed to more communication in the future, the statement added.

Some background: Western leaders want China in their corner when it comes to the conflict in Ukraine, but Beijing has not appeared to scale back ties with Russia.

China attended a summit in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, aimed to find a peaceful solution to the war at the beginning of last month. But after the meetings, China’s top diplomat, Wang Yi, called his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov reiterating Beijing’s “impartiality” in the conflict.

The two countries’ militaries have continued joint exercises throughout the war, including a naval patrol off the coast of Alaska in August. Putin is also expected to visit China in October, according to Russian media, after being invited by China’s Xi Jinping in March.

Two cargo ships arrive in Ukraine port via temporary corridor

Two cargo ships have arrived in one of Ukraine’s ports, using a temporary Black Sea corridor established by the government.

According to an online statement by the Ukrainian Sea Ports Authority, two Palau-flagged bulk carriers docked at the seaport of Chornomorsk in the southern Odesa region.

Ukraine’s deputy prime minister said in an online statement that the two ships will be delivering some 20,000 tonnes of wheat to countries in Africa and Asia.

They are the first since Russia’s withdrawal from a wartime agreement designed to ensure safe grain exports from the invaded country’s ports.

NATO chief warns we must “prepare for a long war” in Ukraine

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has warned that we must “prepare ourselves for a long war” in Ukraine, as Kyiv’s counteroffensive against Russia continues to make only marginal gains.

“Most wars last longer than is expected when they first start. Therefore, we must prepare ourselves for a long war in Ukraine,” Stoltenberg said in an interview with German newspaper Berliner Morgenpost, published on Sunday.

“We are all wishing for a quick peace. But at the same time, we must recognize: If President [Volodymyr] Zelensky and the Ukrainians give up the fight, their country would not exist anymore. If President Putin and Russia laid down their weapons, we would have peace,” the NATO chief stated.

“The easiest way to end this war would be if [Russian President Vladimir] Putin withdrew his troops,” he added.

Also in the interview, Stoltenberg reiterated that it is just a matter of time before Ukraine joins NATO.

“Ukraine will become a member of NATO – all allies have made that clear,” he said, adding that Ukraine will need safety guarantees when the war ends, otherwise “history could repeat itself.”

Addressing the idea of a possible nuclear threat by the Russians, Stoltenberg stressed: “Moscow must understand that the use of nuclear weapons is unacceptable.

“We are observing very closely what the Russian army is doing. Until now we have not noticed any changes to Russia’s nuclear forces that would prompt us to react.”

His words follow warnings that Ukraine’s counteroffensive could run through the winter.
Kyrylo Budanov, Ukraine’s head of military intelligence, last week acknowledged that even though cold weather was a reality the military cannot ignore, “hostilities will continue, the counteroffensive will continue.”

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