Sunday, June 23, 2024

Live Update: Russia’s “Special Operation” in Ukraine; Day 584

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 is working with the US to ensure the budget decision will help Kyiv

The Ukrainian government is working with its partners in Washington to ensure that the budget Congress will work on over the next 45 days will include new funds to help Kyiv push back against Russia, a spokesman for Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry stated.

Washington narrowly avoided a government shutdown with the passage of a stopgap funding bill on Saturday but it dropped funding for Ukraine.

A future budget could have a negative impact on Ukraine, the spokesman, Oleg Nikolenko, said on Facebook on Sunday.

Nikolenko added that the US budget currently includes about $1.6 billion for the defense industry and $1.23 billion for direct budget support, as well as funds for humanitarian and energy projects.


PM: No plan to send UK troops to train in Ukraine

Rishi Sunak has made clear that Defence Secretary Grant Shapps’ suggestion that British troops could train forces in Ukraine is not for the “here and now” during the war against the Russian invasion.

The prime minister on Sunday ruled out UK forces going to Ukraine and said that the recently appointed political head of the Ministry of Defence was discussing possible plans for the “long term”.

Shapps had stated in an interview with The Sunday Telegraph that “eventually” he would like to get Britain’s long-standing training of Volodymyr Zelensky’s troops “in country” rather than in the UK.


Five more cargo ships head for Ukraine’s Black Sea ports: Deputy PM

Five more ships are on their way to Ukrainian sea ports using a new corridor opened to resume predominantly agricultural exports, an alternative arrangement to the Black Sea grain deal blocked by Russia, a top Ukrainian official stated on Sunday.

“5 new vessels are waiting to be loaded in Ukrainian ports,” Deputy Prime Minister Oleksandr Kubrakov said on the X social media platform.

“Bulk carriers OLGA, IDA, DANNY BOY, FORZA DORIA, NEW LEGACY are going to export almost 120,000 (metric) tons of Ukrainian grain to Africa and Europe,” he added.


Traffic restricted at Russia’s Sochi airport following Ukrainian drone attack

Flights were diverted at Sochi International Airport in Russia Sunday after a Ukrainian drone was shot down over Russia’s Krasnodar region, Sochi mayor Aleksey Kopaigorodsky said in a statement.

According to the Russian Ministry of Defence, the drone used in the attack was an aircraft-type UAV.

As a precautionary measure, the Sochi International Airport – over 200 miles from the affected region – had a temporary restriction on their flights.

“Sochi airport imposed a temporary flight restriction. Six flights were diverted to alternate airfields,” the Sochi airport said in a statement on Sunday.

The restrictions were lifted at 8.20 a.m. (local time), with the airport resuming the arrival and departure of aircraft, the mayor and Sochi airport statements both said.

“Everything is normal in Sochi. The situation in the city is calm,” Kopaigorodsky added.

Ukraine has been stepping up its attacks beyond its borders using drones to target Russian infrastructure.


West pushing Russia toward World War III: Medvedev

Through actively engaging in hostilities in Ukraine, Western countries are pushing the situation to the brink of World War III, Russian Security Council Deputy Chairman Dmitry Medvedev has warned.

“The number of decision-making idiots in NATO countries is growing,” Medvedev wrote on his Telegram channel.

“These half-wits are actively pushing us toward World War III…,” he added.

The politician, in particular, cited the idea of Marie-Agnes Strack-Zimmermann, chair of the German Bundestag’s defense committee, to supply Ukraine with Taurus missiles so that the Kiev regime could make strikes on Russian territory to weaken the supply of its army.

“Alleging that this is in line with international law. Well, in that case, strikes on German factories where these missiles are made will also fully comply with international law,” the politician warned.

Medvedev also drew attention to a proposal by British Secretary of State for Defense Grant Shapps to move British training courses for Ukrainian soldiers to Ukrainian soil.

“That is, to turn their instructors into a legal target for our armed forces. Realizing perfectly well that they will be ruthlessly destroyed. And no longer as mercenaries, but precisely as UK’s NATO specialists,” he pointed out.


Biden: US cannot ‘under any circumstances’ allow support for Ukraine be interrupted

Washington cannot “under any circumstances” allow support for Kiev to be withdrawn, US President Joe Biden said on Sunday, commenting on a short-term spending bill, passed by the US Senate to keep the US government open for 45 days.

“Tonight, bipartisan majorities in the House and Senate voted to keep the government open, preventing an unnecessary crisis … While the Speaker and the overwhelming majority of Congress have been steadfast in their support for Ukraine, there is no new funding in this agreement to continue that support. We cannot under any circumstances allow American support for Ukraine to be interrupted,” Biden said in a statement, released by the White House.

The US president also called on House Speaker Kevin McCarthy to keep “his commitment to the people of Ukraine and secure passage of the support needed to help Ukraine at this critical moment.”

The continuing resolution (CR) bill that passed the House and the Senate does not include assistance for Ukraine, however, the House recently passed a bill to provide $300 million to Ukraine that will soon be considered in the Senate. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) the Senate Minority Leader, following the vote, told reporters that he is confident the Senate will pass additional assistance to Ukraine later this year.

Earlier in the day, media reported, citing a US official, that the White House expects the House Speaker to put forward a separate bill to provide further support for Ukraine.

In August, Biden asked the Congress to approve a total of $24 billion in additional assistance for Ukraine as part of $40 billion in supplemental funding requested for 2024.

Since Russia’s special military operation first began in Ukraine, the US has spent an extensive sum of $75 billion in assistance to the country.


UK defense chief wants to send British troops to Ukraine

The newly-appointed Defence Secretary, Grant Shapps, has unveiled ongoing discussions about expanding the UK-led training program for Ukrainian troops and potentially relocating British instructors into the country itself, as well as offering Kiev unspecified naval support in the Black Sea.

“I was talking today about eventually getting the training brought closer and actually into Ukraine as well,” Shapps told The Telegraph after a visit to a Salisbury Plain training ground, on Friday.

During his trip to Kiev earlier this week, the new defense chief, who got his post in a government reshuffle a month ago, apparently saw an “opportunity” to “bring more things in country.” Shapps explained he meant “not just training,” but also weapons manufacturing, as he praised the British arms giant BAE Systems for its plans to localize in Ukraine.

“I’m keen to see other British companies do their bit as well by doing the same thing. So I think there will be a move to get more training and production in the country,” he added.

In his discussions with the Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, Shapps also reportedly said that Britain’s Navy could play a role in “defending commercial vessels” the Black Sea, according to The Telegraph.

“Britain is a naval nation so we can help and we can advise, particularly since the water is international water,” he said without elaborating what kind of help he offered Zelensky.

The UK military conducted an official operation to train and arm Ukrainian troops since 2015, which has since shifted out of the country. British Royal Marines also conducted several high-risk “discreet operations” in Ukraine last year, according to one general, but officially London never admitted to having any significant presence in the country after the conflict with Russia escalated in 2022. However, several classified US military documents that leaked online earlier this year suggested that some 50 British special operatives were still active in Ukraine.

The open deployment of British military personnel would be yet another escalation, after the UK became the first NATO country to supply Kiev with depleted uranium shells as well as long-range cruise missiles which Ukraine has since repeatedly used in attacks against Russian infrastructure.

Moscow has repeatedly described the conflict in Ukraine as one between Russia and the “entire Western military machine,” while Russian President Vladimir Putin said last year that there are entire military units in Ukraine “under the de-facto command of Western advisers.”


Blaze reported in west Ukraine at oil pipeline

A huge fire has erupted at an oil pipeline in the western Ukrainian region of Ivano-Frankivsk, injuring three people, emergency services said.

Unverified footage shared on social media showed billowing clouds of thick black smoke over what appeared to be a village.

“At 5 pm (1400 GMT), near the village of Strymba, Nadvirna district, an oil pipeline (150 millimetres in diameter) ruptured,” Ukraine’s State Emergency Service said.

It said that the rupture led to an oil spill spanning an area of 100 square metres (1,076sq feet). The cause of the fire was not immediately clear, but local media outlets said there had been a powerful explosion.

“Rescuers are working at the scene,” the emergency services said.


Ukraine ready to become international military production hub: Zelensky

Ukraine is ready to offer special conditions to companies that are willing to develop weapons production jointly with Kyiv, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Saturday.

He made the comments as he met with representatives from defense companies from various countries, including the United States, United Kingdon, Germany, France, Turkey, Sweden and the Czech Republic.

“It will be a mutually beneficial partnership. I think this is a good time and place to create a large military hub,” Zelensky stated, according to his office.

“The sky shield and demining are the two biggest priorities for us today,” Zelensky said, adding this includes air defense means and the production of systems for warning and surveillance.

“We have to do this. This will be useful not only for Ukraine, but also for Europe and our neighbors,” he continued.

Ukraine is also interested in the production of long-range missiles and artillery with new capabilities. The combination of advanced technologies and military tactics will help Ukraine prevail in the war against Russia, Zelensky noted.

“That is why we prioritize the development of defense production using modern technologies, production of shells, missiles, drones in Ukraine in cooperation with global leaders in the field and using our experience in their operation,” Zelensky added.

“Ukraine has shown the whole world what actually works, and I think we can share this experience,” he continued.

Kyiv has been developing its own arms in part as it allows it to strike Russia outside of Ukraine without using Western-supplied arms.


Kyiv seeks to boost spending to $1.5 billion to encourage the country’s nascent weapons industry

The Ukrainian government plans to spend $1.5 billion on weapons and materiel production in 2024 — a sevenfold increase compared to last year — Prime Minister Denis Shmyhal said Saturday.

The increase was included in the government’s budget proposal for next year. The plans come as Kyiv has been using domestically produced missiles and drones to strike targets on Russian soil, beyond the front lines.

Shmyal touted the “new birth” of Ukraine’s weapons manufacturing sector at a defense industries event in Kyiv on Friday.

“We are launching new production facilities. We are expanding those that were producing results before the full-scale invasion. We are investing in new technologies and new developments,” he said.

“We are ready to help everyone who produces high-quality weapons for our army.”

Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky addressed the audience at the International Defense Industries Forum in Kyiv on Saturday.

“The world sees what Ukrainian missiles, technologies, and drones are capable of. We are creating the world’s first fleet of naval drones that render Russian military ships ineffective and force them into hiding,” Zelensky said.

Zelensky added Ukraine would start producing 155 mm caliber artillery systems and shells, commonly used weapons during the war with Russia.

Thirty countries from Europe, North America, Asia and Oceania, as well as over 250 weapons manufacturing companies, have representatives at the forum, he continued.

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