Thursday, June 20, 2024

Live Update: Russia’s “Special Operation” in Ukraine; Day 585

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:

Not all 27 EU foreign ministers are in Kyiv, despite official’s claim

Not all 27 European Union foreign ministers are present in Kyiv, despite an earlier statement by the bloc’s foreign policy chief outlining plans for their “historic” meeting in the Ukrainian capital Monday, according to CNN.

Several foreign ministers have already made on-camera addresses on the sidelines of the meeting, including those from Bulgaria, Romania, the Netherlands, Portugal, Belgium, Cyprus, Denmark, Italy, Croatia and France.

Kyiv is working with Washington after aid shutdown decision: Ukraine’s foreign minister

Kyiv is working with Washington after Congress did not include new Ukraine aid in a last-minute deal to avoid a government shutdown, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said Monday.

Though US President Joe Biden lauded the deal reached by lawmakers, he also acknowledged the lack of new funding for Ukraine, vowing Washington “will not walk away” from Kyiv. Meanwhile, a bipartisan group of leaders in the US Senate also promised to vote on more aid for Ukraine.

Kuleba said Monday that Ukraine was “now working with both sides of Congress to make sure that [the decision] does not repeat again, under any circumstances.”

“We do not feel that US support has been shattered, because the US understands that what is at stake in Ukraine is much bigger than just Ukraine,” he continued, adding, “It’s about the stability and predictability of the world, and therefore I believe that we will be able to find the necessary solutions.”

Speaking alongside Kuleba ahead of a European Union foreign ministers’ meeting in Kyiv Monday, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said the bloc will continue to support Ukraine and is “discussing with our American allies and friends for them too to continue supporting Ukraine.”

“I am sure that this decision will be reconsidered and all together will be on [Ukraine’s] side,” Borrell added.

EU meeting in Ukraine sends message of “unfettered support”: FM

The meeting of EU foreign ministers in Kyiv Monday, is a “historic event” that sends a strong “message of support” for Ukraine, the war-torn country’s foreign minister stated.

Speaking alongside EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said holding a meeting of the EU’s Foreign Affairs Council outside of the bloc’s borders for the first time sends “a message in itself.”

“A message of support, the unfettered support that the EU is extending to Ukraine, which we’re very much grateful for,” he added.

Borrell said the EU ministers would study a peace plan put forward by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

“This is the kind of brainstorming that we need to do among us — and together with [Ukraine] — in order to look at the situation of the war against Ukraine, how the EU is supporting Ukraine, and how we will continue to do that,” Borrell stated.

He added that the EU foreign ministers had come to Kyiv to show “their commitment and the commitment of the European Union to continue to support Ukraine in the war of aggression of Russia against Ukraine.”

“These kinds of meetings are called informal because, first, they are outside of the premises of the European Union, and secondly because they are considered a high level political debate that has not the aim of reaching agreed conclusions and decisions.”

EU foreign ministers to hold “historic” meeting in Kyiv on Monday: Official

European Union foreign ministers will hold a “historic” meeting in Kyiv on Monday to offer support to Ukraine, the bloc’s foreign policy chief stated.

In a series of posts on X, formerly Twitter, Josep Borrell said it would be the “first ever meeting of all 27 Member States outside the EU.”

“We are convening a historic meeting of EU Foreign Ministers here in Ukraine, candidate country and future member of the EU,” Borrell continued, adding, “We are here to express our solidarity and support to the Ukrainian people.”

Musk mocks Zelensky over aid demands

SpaceX and Tesla CEO Elon Musk has ridiculed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky over his demands for more financial support from the US and its allies amid the conflict with Russia.

Posting on his X (formerly Twitter) social media platform on Sunday, Musk shared the popular ‘stressed guy’ meme with Zelensky’s face photoshopped onto it and with a caption reading: “When it’s been five minutes and you haven’t asked for a billion dollars in aid.”

The ‘stressed guy’ meme features an image of a male student whose neck and forehead are bulging with veins while he sits beside a girl in a classroom. The picture is commonly shared for humorous descriptions of frustrating or uncomfortable situations.

Musk’s post comes after Zelensky attempted to drum up more support from the US during a visit to Washington in September. According to US Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, the Ukrainian president told him that “if we don’t get the aid, we will lose the war.”

The administration of US President Joe Biden has provided Kiev with around $46 billion since the beginning of the conflict with Russia in February 2022. However, no funding for Ukraine was included in the last-minute budget deal struck by Congress late on Saturday which allowed the US to avoid a federal government shutdown.

US House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, who was among the Republicans to oppose the Biden administration’s request to allocate $6 billion more to Ukraine, said that the priority must be protecting America’s borders.

The Zelensky government considered Musk among its backers early in the conflict with Russia, when SpaceX donated $80 million worth of Starlink satellite internet terminals to Ukraine. Kiev’s forces have relied heavily on the system for communications.

However, the billionaire was involved in a spat with Ukrainian officials and social media users last October after he proposed a peace plan to settle the conflict. Musk suggested that Russia should “redo elections of annexed regions under UN supervision,” while Ukraine would commit to neutrality and drop its claim to Crimea. Four former Ukrainian regions voted to join Russia a year ago, while Crimea held a similar referendum in 2014 after a Western-backed coup in Kiev.

Zelensky reacted to the idea by launching a social media poll, asking followers “which Elon Musk” they “like more” – the one “who supports Ukraine” or the one “who supports Russia.” Kiev’s then ambassador to Germany, Andrey Melnik, went further by telling the US billionaire to “f**k off.” A few days after the row, the Ukrainian military reportedly began experiencing problems with Starlink services.

Musk’s biography by historian Walter Isaacson, which came out in September, described an indecent last autumn in which the billionaire allegedly told his engineers to shut down satellite internet coverage in Crimea amid an attempted Ukrainian drone assault on the Russian peninsula. According to Isaacson, the tech entrepreneur concluded that “allowing the use of Starlink for the attack… could be a disaster for the world.”

Ukrainian presidential aide Mikhail Podoliak claimed that Musk was “committing evil and encouraging evil” with his decision, which he said was the result of “a cocktail of ignorance and big ego.”

Zelensky says “victory will come” at an event honoring soldiers

Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky said that “victory will come” in the country’s war against Russia in an event celebrating the country’s soldiers.

In an address marking Day of the Defenders, the national holiday honoring veterans and fallen soldiers, Zelensky stressed the of importance of unity and optimism as the fight continues.

“Our unity must enable us to go all the way to drive the occupier out of our land, and it will,” he stated.

“Never again will Ukraine pay with the future of its children, its sovereignty, and its will for illusory promises of peace,” the president added.

“Courage, resilience, unity are the things we must not lose in order to not lose Ukraine.”

Total amount of EU assistance to Ukraine reaches $89.8bn: Top diplomat

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said that the European Union had allocated 85 billion euros ($89.8 billion) in support to Ukraine, of which over 25 billion euros had been provided in the form of military assistance.

“Our military support to Ukraine has reached the figure of 25 billion euros. And altogether – military, civilian, humanitarian [aid] – have reached the figure of 85 billion euros, which is… the highest amount in the world,” Borrell stated at a press conference in Kiev.

EU foreign policy chief, in Kyiv, says bloc is preparing long-term security pledges

European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said during a visit to Kyiv on Sunday that Ukraine needed more military aid and he promised ongoing EU support.

“Ukraine needs more capabilities & needs them faster,” he said in a statement posted on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter.

He stated he had discussed “continuous EU military assistance” during his first in-person meeting with Defence Minister Rustem Umerov.

“We are preparing long-term security commitments for Ukraine,” Borrell added.

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 said.

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

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

Nikolenko said 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.

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