Friday, June 21, 2024

Live Update: Russia’s “Special Operation” in Ukraine; Day 575

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 claims fresh progress on southern battlefront in Zaporizhzhia region

Ukrainian officials indicated further progress has been made on the southern front in the Zaporizhzhia region, with some units advancing “deep into the Russian defenses.”

Melitopol: “Units of the Offensive Guard brigades are pushing the [Russians] out of their positions and consolidating their positions despite strong Russian resistance,” said Col. Mykola Urshalovych, deputy director of planning with the National Guard, at a briefing in Kyiv Thursday.

“Despite dense mining and engineering equipment, as well as strong resistance from the occupiers, our units had a partial success, advanced both into the depths of the enemy’s defense and along the front.”

Robotyne-Verbove area: Vladimir Rogov, a member of the Russian-installed administration in occupied Zaporizhzhia, gave a different picture.

“Our attack drones have hit an assault group of Ukrainian militants who tried to break through to our positions on the Orikhiv direction between the villages of Robotyne and Verbove,” he said, according to Russian news agency RIA Novosti.

Ukrainians were forced to retreat with heavy losses, he added.

However, Yevgeniy Balitskiy, the Russian-appointed acting governor of occupied parts of Zaporizhzhia region wrote on Telegram that Ukraine is “completing the redeployment of its units in the Robotyne area, after which we expect the situation in the Robotyne-Verbove area to deteriorate.”

Open-source analysis of available video suggests some Ukrainian units have crossed through an important line of Russian defenses near the village of Verbove.

According to several analysts, Ukrainian vehicles from the 82nd Air Assault Brigade had crossed one trench system.

Without air superiority and in the face of dense minefields and reinforced Russian units, Ukrainian forces have so far struggled to break through the multiple layers of Russian defenses in occupied Zaporizhzhia. They still remain some 20 kilometers from the strategic Russian hub of Tokmak — their first major target on the southern offensive.

Kyiv passes 1,000 hours of air raid sirens during Russian invasion

Air raid sirens in Kyiv have sounded for more than 1,000 hours since Russia’s full-scale invasion began in February last year, a Ukrainian official said following Moscow’s latest assault on the capital.

Seven people, including a 9-year-old girl, were injured in Russian aerial attacks Thursday, which caused damage and power outages in several districts, Ukrainian authorities confirmed.

“The capital has already crossed the mark of 1,000 hours of air raid alarms since the beginning of the full-scale invasion!” said Serhii Popko, head of the Kyiv city military administration, in a Telegram post Thursday.

“Just imagine – a month and a half of continuous air raid alarms! We have survived it and we will overcome much more together!” Popko added.

Poll finds a majority of Americans oppose more US aid for Ukraine in war with Russia

As Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenksy prepares to return to Capitol Hill on Thursday to appeal for more support for Kyiv, a recent CNN poll shows that American public support for additional US aid for Ukraine has been shifting.

Most Americans oppose Congress authorizing more funding to support Ukraine in its war with Russia, according to an August CNN poll conducted by SSRS.

Overall, 55% say the US Congress should not authorize additional funding to support Ukraine vs. 45% who say Congress should authorize such funding.

And 51% say that the US has already done enough to help Ukraine while 48% say it should do more. A poll conducted in the early days of the Russian invasion in late February 2022 found 62% who felt the US should have been doing more.

Partisan divisions have widened since that poll, too, with most Democrats and Republicans now on opposing sides of questions on the US role in Ukraine.

A majority, but not all (68%) of those who say the US should do more to support Ukraine favor additional funding, as do 23% of those who say the US has already done enough.

When asked specifically about types of assistance the US could provide to Ukraine, there is broader support for help with intelligence gathering (63%) and military training (53%) than for providing weapons (43%), alongside very slim backing for US military forces to participate in combat operations (17%).

Most Americans who say the US should be doing more to support Ukraine are in favor of providing assistance in intelligence gathering (75%), military training (68%) and weapons (60%), while among those who say the US has already done enough, only intelligence gathering earns majority support (52%).

A majority of Americans do express concern that Russia’s war in Ukraine will threaten US national security (56%), but that’s down significantly February 2022 (72% were worried about threats to US security then).

A bigger worry across partisan lines in the new poll is that the war will continue without a resolution for a long time. Nearly 8 in 10 are worried about that, including 82% of Democrats, 75% of independents and 73% of Republicans. Nearly two-thirds overall are concerned that the war in Ukraine will lead to increased threats to democracy elsewhere (65%) or lead to Russian attacks elsewhere (64%), and about 6 in 10 are worried it could lead to a broader war in Europe (59%).

Russian official says Ukrainian missiles headed for Crimea air base shot down

Russian forces have shot down all Ukrainian missiles used in an attempted attack on the Saky airbase in Crimea, Oleg Kryuchkov, an adviser to the Russian-installed head of the local administration, wrote on Telegram.

Ukraine’s military announced its forces had struck the Russian airbase overnight, confirming an attack that a Ukrainian intelligence source had earlier told Reuters was carried out by the SBU security service and navy using drones and Neptune cruise missiles.

Zelensky seeks more air defence systems after overnight attack

President Volodymyr Zelensky has reiterated the need for more air defence systems after Russia launched a series of air strikes across Ukraine overnight.

“Last night, Russian terrorists launched another massive attack. In particular, on infrastructure. Most of the missiles were shot down. But only most of them. Not all of them,” he said on the Telegram messaging app.

“More air defence. More sanctions. More support for Ukrainian soldiers on the front lines,” he wrote during a visit to the US, where he stated air defence systems would be on the agenda of talks.

Ukraine’s military claims it struck Russian air base in Crimea overnight

Ukrainian forces struck the Saky air base in Crimea overnight, Ukraine’s military said on Thursday, confirming an attack that had earlier been reported to Reuters by an intelligence source.

“Ukrainian defence forces have carried out a combined attack on a military air base near the city of Saky in temporarily occupied Crimea,” the military wrote on the Telegram messaging app.

The intelligence source told Reuters the attack had inflicted “serious damage” on equipment at the base.

Russia has not commented on the reports. The Russian military announced it had destroyed 19 Ukrainian drones over Crimea and the Black Sea earlier on Thursday, and gave no details on casualties or damage.

Russia launches missile attacks on Ukraine’s power infrastructure for first time in months

Ukraine’s state energy provider Ukrenergo says that Russia’s overnight missile attacks caused damage to power facilities in western and central regions in Ukraine.

Ukrenergo said it was the first time that Russia had launched attacks on the power infrastructure in six months. The strikes come as Ukraine prepares for the winter months. Last year, Russia began a series of intense attacks on Ukraine’s energy infrastructure in October.

“Due to the consequences of the attack, there were partial blackouts in Rivne, Zhytomyr, Kyiv, Dniproptrovsk and Kharkiv regions. The power supply is being restored to consumers,” Ukrenergo said.

“Due to the hostilities and other reasons, 398 settlements remain without electricity as of the morning.”

It added: “Currently, the operation of main power grids in [Rivne and Zhytomyr] has been restored, and household consumers are being supplied with power in the regional power company grids. The attack also damaged power grids in Dnipropetrovsk, Kyiv and Kharkiv regions. Emergency repair work began immediately after the air raid alarm went off.”

“The power supply is restored subject given the security situation and with the permission of the military.”

Vitalii Koval, head of the Rivne regional military administration, stated the region had suffered several missile strikes. “Unfortunately, there are hits on the energy and civilian infrastructure.”

Speaking in front of a service station that was damaged, Koval added that there were no casualties, but added “There is also no power supply in part of Rivne district.”

Last year, Russia ramped up strikes on Ukraine’s energy infrastructure as temperatures dropped.

In October 2022, the country’s energy facilities were attacked at least 82 times — more than in all previous months of the full-scale invasion combined.

From October through to January, Russia hit infrastructure throughout most of Ukraine.

Ukrainian forces operating armoured vehicles beyond Russian defensive lines: ISW

The Institute for the Study of War (ISW), a Washington, DC-based think tank, announced Ukrainian forces appear to have operated armoured vehicles beyond Russian antitank defences in a key stretch of the front line in an “important sign of progress in the Ukrainian counteroffensive”.

“These small tactical steps may be the start of a larger and more significant advance, although it is too soon to make confident forecasts,” ISW wrote on X.

Poland will still send previously agreed supplies of weapons and ammunition

Poland is only carrying out previously agreed supplies of ammunition and armaments, including those resulting from the contracts signed with Ukraine, government spokesperson Piotr Muller was quoted as saying by state-run news agency PAP.

This follows Poland’s Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki’s comments on Wednesday that Warsaw would no longer supply weapons to Ukraine.

Ship with Ukrainian grain arrives in Turkey

The cargo ship Resilient Africa arrived off Turkey’s Bosphorus Strait on Thursday, the first vessel loaded with grain from Ukraine to sail in and out of the Black Sea using a temporary corridor.

The ship left the Ukrainian port of Chornomorsk this week with 3,000 metric tonnes of grain, Kyiv had said.

Ukraine last month announced a “humanitarian corridor” to release ships bound for African and Asian markets, and to circumvent a de facto blockade after Russia abandoned a deal this summer that had guaranteed its exports during the war.

Russia says NATO drills are ‘aggressive’, risky

Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced NATO drills near Russian borders have taken on an increasingly provocative and aggressive nature and increased risk of incidents, Russia’s RIA news agency reports.

The ministry was referring to the Steadfast Defender exercise planned next year in Europe.

The live joint command exercise will assemble more than 40,000 NATO soldiers to practise how the alliance would attempt to repel a Russian attack on one of its members.

Ukraine’s air defences shoot down 36 Russian missiles: Army chief

Ukrainian air defences have shot down 36 of 43 missiles launched by Russia in overnight attacks on Ukraine, the commander-in-chief of Ukraine’s armed forces stated.

General Valeriy Zaluzhnyi wrote on the Telegram messaging app that the missiles were launched in several waves from 10 Russian warplanes.

Belgium considers supplying Ukraine with F-16s

Belgium is considering supplying Ukraine with F-16 fighter jets, Prime Minister Alexander De Croo stated.

Belgium is replacing its F-16s with F-35 fighter jets. Its Ministry of Defence said the F-16s are too old for Ukraine to use in battle although De Croo said they might still be useful, for example, in training pilots.

“I have asked Defence to see what use our F-16s could have in Ukraine,” De Croo told the Belgian broadcaster VRT from the sidelines of the UN General Assembly meeting in New York.

“We need to consider all options.”

In recent months, Norway, Denmark and the Netherlands have said they will supply Ukraine with F-16s once its air force is ready to use them.

Poland says it will no longer supply Ukraine with weapons

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki says as tensions are high between Warsaw and Kyiv due to a dispute over grain exports that Poland will no longer supply weapons to Ukraine.

Poland has been among Ukraine’s staunchest supporters since Russia launched its invasion last year and is one of Kyiv’s primary weapons suppliers. Poland also hosts about one million Ukrainian refugees.

But Morawiecki appeared to signal that relations would change radically.

“We are no longer transferring weapons to Ukraine because we are now arming Poland with more modern weapons,” the prime minister stated.

Russia targets six Ukrainian cities with air strikes

Air alerts have sounded across Ukraine as a massive Russian attack on at least six cities have killed at least two people, started fires and wounded at least 21.

In the southern city of Kherson near the front lines, two people were killed and five injured in the morning attacks when a residential building was hit, Governor Oleksandr Prokudin said.

Seven people were injured in Kyiv, including a 9-year-old girl, Mayor Vitali Klitschko reported, and some residential and commercial buildings were damaged.

At least six strikes hit the Slobidskyi district of Kharkiv in northeastern Ukraine, damaging civilian infrastructure, Governor Oleh Syniehubov stated. The mayor added that two people had been sent to hospitals.

Seven people were injured, and at least one person was rescued from under rubble in Cherkasy in central Ukraine, according to Ihor Klymenko, Ukraine’s minister of internal affairs.

An industrial zone was hit in the western region of Lviv, damaging buildings and starting a fire, but no information on casualties was immediately available, Klymenko added.

Russia imposes temporary restrictions on fuel exports

Russia has introduced temporary restrictions on petrol and diesel exports to stabilise the domestic market, the government says.

The Ministry of Energy announced in a statement that it would prevent unauthorised “grey” exports of motor fuels.

“Temporary restrictions will help saturate the fuel market, which in turn will reduce prices for consumers,” the government added.

Government officials stated the plans are intended to restrict fuel exports only to those who make oil products to avert a large-scale fuel crisis. A prohibitive duty on fuel exports has been considered.

In recent months, Russia has suffered shortages of petrol and diesel. Wholesale fuel prices have spiked although retail prices are capped to keep them in line with the official inflation rate.

White House to provide Ukraine with new aid package during Zelensky visit: US official

The White House is planning to provide a new aid package to Ukraine when President Volodymyr Zelensky visits Thursday, a US official told CNN.

The package — based on existing drawdown authority — will include additional artillery, anti-armor, anti-aircraft and air defense capabilities that will better equip the country for an ongoing counteroffensive and beyond.

Zelensky “will be leaving the White House with a significant package of additional capabilities to help near- and long-term defenses,” this official said.

The package’s air defense capabilities are also expected to help Ukraine defend its skies ahead of a tough winter, with more strikes expected on critical infrastructure.

Notably, the package is not expected to include Army Tactical Missile Systems, known as ATACMS, that would allow Ukrainian soldiers the ability to strike longer-range targets.

“For us, that’ll be a loss for us, if we won’t be able to get that weapon which will protect us,” Zelensky said when asked by CNN’s Wolf Blitzer whether he would be disappointed not to receive those capabilities. “But it’s not disappointment. It will just be a loss.”

National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby said that ATACMs are “not off the table,” but that the agencies reviewing whether to provide the weapons have not reached a decision.

US military has briefed the White House that, while ATACMs would provide longer-range and longer-term defense capabilities, Ukraine’s more pressing needs during the counteroffensive are vehicles, mine-clearing equipment, and short-range anti-aircraft equipment to breach Russian defenses.

Polish president calls on world leaders to act in solidarity to deal with Russia

Poland’s President Andrzej Duda urged world leaders at the United Nations to unite to deal with Russia.

“If we don’t act in solidarity today, to defend the fundamental values of international law, tomorrow may be too late,” Duda said during Wednesday’s UN Security Council meeting on Ukraine.

Duda stated the “strategic change” that occurred following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is not temporary.

“We are living in a new era of uncertainty,” Duda added.

Earlier, Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky called on the Security Council to revoke Russia’s veto power.

Canadian prime minister urges action over Russia’s “illegal war”

Canada’s prime minister called Wednesday for action to be taken over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“We need to be one hundred percent clear about what is happening right now. A permanent member of this Security Council, Russia, has launched and continues to wage an illegal war,” Justin Trudeau said at Wednesday’s United Nations Security Council meeting.

He criticized Russia for using its veto right within the Security Council “to facilitate this war and these violations of the principles of the United Nations.”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky made similar comments earlier Wednesday calling for Russia’s veto power to be stripped — saying it’s making it impossible to stop the war.

For example, in September 2022, Russia vetoed a draft resolution that would have condemned its seizure of Ukrainian territories and called on it to withdraw from Ukraine.

Russia, which has defended its veto power, is one of five permanent members of the powerful Security Council, the so-called P5, which also includes the UK, France, the United States, and China.

“We must take action to stop the tragic deaths and violence, including sexual violence, caused by this unjustifiable invasion,” Trudeau added.

“We must not let the world return to a place where might makes right. We must make sure borders mean something even when a neighbor has a bigger army.”

No grounds for Ukraine peace talks: Kremlin

Russia is ready to seek a diplomatic solution to the conflict in Ukraine, but so far there is no basis for such talks to start, the Kremlin press secretary has said.

“The word ‘negotiations’ is being heard more and more often” in relation to the crisis in Ukraine, Dmitry Peskov stated in an interview with Russia’s Channel One on Wednesday.

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin “consistently… explains the position of the Russian side, which has never given up on the idea of such negotiations, but which asserts that at the moment there are no grounds for their resumption,” he explained.

According to the Kremlin spokesman, in view of the circumstances, Russia has no choice but to keep pursuing its goals in Ukraine through military means.

Moscow and Kiev have not sat down at the negotiating table since talks in Istanbul in late March 2022, a month after the outbreak of the conflict. Russia, which initially expressed optimism on the peace process, later accused Ukraine of backtracking on all progress achieved in Türkiye, saying it had lost trust in Kiev’s negotiators.

Ukrainian President Vladmir Zelensky used his trip to the UN General Assembly this week to rally international support for his so-called “peace formula.” He told world leaders in New York that his plan might provide “a real chance to end the aggression on the terms of the nation which was attacked.”

Among other things, Zelesky’s “peace formula” calls on Russia to withdraw to its pre-2014 borders, pay reparations, and submit to war crimes tribunals. Moscow rejected this plan when it was first put forward last year, describing it as “unrealistic” and a sign of Kiev’s unwillingness to seek a diplomatic solution.

US President Joe Biden stated in his speech at the UN on Tuesday that Washington supported a negotiated settlement, but stressed that Russia’s “price for peace,” which, according to him, was “Ukraine’s capitulation, Ukraine’s territory and Ukraine’s children,” was unacceptable.

During a UN Security Council meeting on Wednesday, at which Zelensky was present, Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov also said Moscow was “not giving up” on the idea of peace talks.

If the US is also interested in dialogue it could start by giving a “command” to Kiev to cancel a decree, signed last autumn, which banned Zelensky from holding any negotiations with Putin, the Russian diplomat suggested.

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