Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Russia’s “Special Operation” in Ukraine; Day 309: Ukraine reports massive Russian missile attacks

Russia, wary of NATO’s eastward expansion, began a military campaign in Ukraine on February 24 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:

German refineries under strain as government moves to ban Russian oil

Several refineries in Germany have come under strain due to the government’s decision to completely stop Russian oil imports at the end of December.

The Schwedt refinery, which supplies 90 percent of all petroleum products consumed in Berlin, will operate at 70 percent of its usual capacity from January, public broadcaster ZDF reported.

Michael Kellner, state secretary at the economy ministry, told ZDF that Russian oil will be replaced with supplies via pipelines from Germany’s Rostock port and neighbouring Poland.

According to the government’s plan, the pipeline from Rostock will fulfil about 55 percent of the Schwedt refinery’s supply needs.

Germany’s ban on Russian oil imports could also hamper production at other refineries, such as Leuna, one of the country’s biggest chemical industrial complexes.

Belarus summons Ukraine’s ambassador over S-300 missile

Belarus summons Ukraine’s ambassador after shooting down a Ukrainian S-300 air defence missile in a field.

The military commissar of the Brest region, Oleg Konovalov, told locals they had “absolutely nothing to worry about”.

“Unfortunately, these things happen,” he added.

“The Belarusian side views this incident as extremely serious,” Belarusian foreign ministry spokesman Anatoly Glaz said.

“We demanded that the Ukrainian side conduct a thorough investigation … [and] hold those responsible to account and take comprehensive measures to prevent the recurrence of such incidents in the future,” he continued.

A Ukrainian military spokesman acknowledged that the missile was a Ukrainian stray, saying the incident was “nothing strange, a result of air defence” and something that “has happened more than once”.

Belarus announced the missile had come down near the village of Harbacha in the Brest region, some 15km (9 miles) from the border with Ukraine, at around 10am (07:00 GMT).

Russia to build new ballistic missile submarines: Putin

Russia will build four new ballistic missile submarines that will ensure the country’s security for decades, President Vladimir Putin said.

The new submarines and ships with modern navigation, communication and sonar systems will be equipped with high-precision weapons and robotic systems.

Putin added that the Generalissimus Suvorov submarine, armed with Bulava (Mace) ballistic missiles, would “significantly increase the capabilities” of the country’s nuclear naval forces.

“And I would like to note that within the framework of the current state armament programme, four more such submarines will be built, which will ensure Russia’s security for decades to come,” he continued.

In addition, Putin stated that the small rocket ship, Grad Sviyazhsk, is also a new-generation project, specifying that ships effectively perform combat tasks in Syria and during the “special military operation” in Ukraine.

No signs that Russia wants peace: Italian PM

Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni says there are no signs that Russia wants peace in Ukraine, urging continued international backing for Kyiv.

The prime minister stated supporting Ukraine was key to maintaining a balance of power on the battlefield and creating conditions for peace.

Speaking at an end-of-year news conference, Meloni added she intends to visit the Ukrainian capital before the first anniversary of the Russian invasion, which began on February 24.

Poland ready for Russian oil ban

Poland is prepared for Russia’s response to the G7 price cap, which will stop the sale of oil to participating countries, the climate minister said.

In response to a $60 per barrel price cap on Russian seaborne crude, Putin on Tuesday signed a decree that bans the supply of crude oil and oil products from February 1 for five months to nations abiding by the cap.

PKN Orlen, Poland’s top refinery, has secured alternative oil supplies via its partnership with Saudi Aramco.

“We are prepared to process all types of crude oil, this is our advantage,” Minister of Climate and Environment Anna Moskwa told a news conference.

Moskwa also added that she believed the next EU sanctions package would include a decision on banning Russian oil.

Wave of Russian strikes one of “most massive” since war began: Ukrainian Defense Ministry

Explosions rattled villages and cities across Ukraine on Thursday in what the government has announced was one of Russia’s largest missile barrages since the war began.

“Russian terrorists have been saving one of the most massive missile attacks since the beginning of the full-scale invasion for the last days of the year,” Ukraine’s Defense Ministry said in a statement on Twitter.

“They dream that Ukrainians will celebrate the New Year in darkness and cold. But they cannot defeat the Ukrainian people,” it added.

Russia launched more than 120 missiles in the attack, Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to President Volodymyr Zelensky, said in a post on Twitter, without giving more details.

He added the focus of the onslaught was to “destroy critical infrastructure and kill civilians en masse.”

According to preliminary data, Ukraine’s Air Force said that Russian forces had used 69 missiles and that it had downed 54 of those, along with Ukraine’s Defense Forces. The Air Force added that it had repelled attacks from “Iranian-made Shahed drones”, which are designed to explode on contact with their targets, as well as cruise missiles.

War is at a stalemate: Ukraine’s intelligence chief

The war has reached a stalemate, with neither Ukraine nor Russia able to make any substantial gains, Ukrainian intelligence chief Kyrylo Budanov has said, as Kyiv awaits more weapons from the United States and other Western allies.

“The situation is just stuck,” Kyrylo Budanov told the BBC in an interview, adding, “It doesn’t move.”

Since Ukrainian forces reclaimed the southern city of Kherson in November, much of the fiercest fighting has raged around Bakhmut, in the eastern Donetsk region, where Budanov visited frontline positions earlier in the week. Both sides have been locked in brutal battle there since Russian forces launched their siege on the city in earnest in May.

The freezing winter conditions have slowed advances and Russian forces are “now completely at a dead end” after heavy losses, Budanov said. But he added that Ukrainian troops were unable to progress either without more resources, particularly weapons supplies.

“We can’t defeat them in all directions comprehensively. Neither can they,” Budanov stated, noting, “We’re very much looking forward to new weapons supplies, and to the arrival of more advanced weapons.””

Budanov also poured cold water on the idea that Russian forces might launch another attack from Belarus, where Moscow has been holding joint military exercises with Minsk.

“As of now, I don’t see any signs of preparations for an invasion of Kyiv or northern areas from Belarus,” he continued.

Russian missile attacks are “senseless barbarism”: Ukrainian FM

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba described the latest wave of Russian missile attacks as “senseless barbarism” on Thursday.

“Senseless barbarism. These are the only words that come to mind seeing Russia launch another missile barrage at peaceful Ukrainian cities ahead of New Year,” Kuleba said on Twitter, adding that there could be “no neutrality” in the face of such attacks.

The barrage of Russian missiles, one of the largest waves of attacks, hit several Ukrainian cities Thursday, damaging civilian infrastructure and knocking out power.

Ukrainian military shot down 54 out of 60 Russian missiles

Ukraine’s military announced it had shot down 54 missiles out of 69 launched by Russia in its latest air strikes.

“This morning, the aggressor launched air and sea-based cruise missiles, anti-aircraft guided missiles to the S-300 ADMS at energy infrastructure facilities of our country,” wrote Ukraine’s top general, Valery Zaluzhny, on Telegram.

40 percent of people in Kyiv without power: Mayor

After a fresh barrage of missiles hit Ukraine on Thursday morning, Kyiv’s mayor, Vitaliy Klitschko, says 40 percent of people are now without energy.

On Telegram he stated: “40 percent of the capital’s consumers are without electricity after the missile attack. In connection with the necessary safety measures used by power workers during an air alert. Power engineers are currently working on restoring the power supply.

“The city supplies heat and water as usual. In addition to houses where there is no energy supply, on which the operation of boiler rooms depends,” he added.

Western support will result in Russia’s defeat: Germany

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine will end in military defeat due to Western support for Kyiv, according to Germany’s Economy Minister Robert Habeck.

“Nobody would have thought that 2022 would end like this,” Habeck told the DPA news agency.

“Vladimir Putin is losing this war on the battlefield” because the Ukrainian army is receiving weapons from Europe, NATO and the US and is using them “skilfully and strategically, cleverly and heroically”, the minister added.

“I am in favour of Germany, together with the allies, supporting Ukraine in such a way that it can win this war,” said Habeck, who had advocated arms deliveries to Kyiv before the beginning of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

‘Sixteen missiles’ shot down over Kyiv: Mayor

Kyiv’s Mayor Vitaliy Klitschko, stated all “16 missiles” have been shot down over Kyiv.

Air defence units also shot down 21 missiles in the Odesa region in southwest Ukraine, its governor, Maksym Marchenko noted.

‘Critical infrastructure’ targeted in Kharkiv: Governor

Kharkiv Governor Oleg Synegubov has noted “critical infrastructure” has been targeted in the region of Kharkiv and its main city where four missiles hit eastern and southern neighbourhoods.

Emergency power cuts in Odesa: Governor

In the south, Odesa governor Maksym Marchenko says air defence shot down 21 missiles over the region.

“Fragments of one of the enemy missiles fell inside a residential building, fortunately there were no casualties,” he stated.

He added that there was damage to energy infrastructure and emergency power cuts were enforced in the region.

Lviv is 90 percent without power: Mayor

Lviv’s Mayor Andriy Sadovyi has stated on Telegram that 90 percent of the city in western Ukraine is without electricity and electric public transport was not running.

“There may be interruptions in water supply,” he added.

The city, close to Ukraine’s border with Poland, has been a relatively safe haven during the war but has faced Russian missiles — including on Thursday.

Kyiv mayor urges residents to stock up on reserves of water

Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko has said on Telegram that the capital could experience power cuts and urged residents to charge their devices and stock up on reserves of water.

Two private houses were hit by fragments of downed missiles in the east of the capital while an “industrial enterprise” and a playground were damaged in the city’s southwest, the Kyiv city military administration announced.

Power cuts were also announced in the Odesa and Dnipropetrovsk regions, aimed at minimising potential damage to the energy infrastructure.

Over 120 missiles fired at Ukraine: Presidential adviser

Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak stated more than 120 missiles had been fired at Ukraine.

“We’re waiting for further proposals from ‘peacekeepers’ about (a) ‘peaceful settlement,’” he wrote on Twitter, referring to Russia’s calls for a solution to the war Moscow started with an invasion on February 24.

‘Enemy is attacking Ukraine from various directions’: Air force

Ukraine has been hit with “massive” Russian missile attacks across the country, including in the capital, Kyiv, the military has reported.

“December 29. Massive missiles attack … The enemy is attacking Ukraine from various directions with air and sea-based cruise missiles from strategic aircraft and ships,” Ukraine’s air force announced.

Russian missiles hit Ukrainian city of Kharkiv: Mayor

The mayor of eastern Ukraine’s Kharkiv has reported that Russian missiles have struck the city, causing a series of explosions.

Ihor Terekhov noted officials were determining what had been hit and whether there were any casualties.

Kharkiv is Ukraine’s second-biggest city with a population of almost 1.5 million people.

Russia plans to disrupt Western arms supplies to Ukraine: FM

Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov has said his country’s military is working on new plans to cut off supplies of weapons and ammunition sent from abroad for the Ukrainian forces.

During an interview on Russian television, Lavrov stated there were calls among military experts to interrupt supply routes channelling weapons from the West to Ukraine.

“We observe that Ukraine is receiving more and more and better Western weapons,” he continued, adding, “Railway lines, bridges and tunnels” are being considered, he said.

“I assume that they will make professional decisions on how to make these deliveries more difficult or, ideally, stop them altogether,” the foreign minister stated.

Ukraine reports ‘massive’ Russian attacks with more than 100 missiles

Ukraine has reported a new wave of Russian missile attacks as blasts were heard in several cities which the authorities said came from air defence systems shooting down incoming missiles.

Presidential office adviser Oleksiy Arestovych wrote on Facebook that more than 100 missiles were incoming in several waves and air raid alarms could be heard across the country.

Blasts were heard in Kyiv, Zhytomyr and Odesa, according to Reuters and local media reports. Power cuts were announced in the Odesa and Dnipropetrovsk regions, aimed at minimising potential damage to the energy infrastructure.

Kharkiv city and region under heavy attacks: Military analyst

Kyiv-based military analyst Oleh Zhdanov has noted that Kharkiv city and region had also come under heavy attacks which damaged a regional gas pipeline.

Kharkiv Mayor Ihor Terekhov said in a Telegram post that the city had come under attack twice, “presumably” from “Iranian drones”, five of which Ukraine’s eastern air command separately reported downing over the city of Dnipro.

Heavy fighting persists around Bakhmut

Heavy fighting has continued around the Ukrainian-held city of Bakhmut, in the eastern province of Donetsk, and to its north, around the cities of Svatove and Kreminna in Luhansk, where Ukrainian forces are trying to break Russian defensive lines.

The United Kingdom’s defence ministry announced Russia had likely reinforced the Kreminna section of the front line as it is logistically important and relatively vulnerable following Ukrainian advances further west.

Kherson suffers mortar and artillery attacks

Russia has shelled more than 25 settlements around Kherson and Zaporizhia, the General Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces said. The Kherson region, at the mouth of the Dnieper river, serves as a gateway to Russian-annexed Crimea.

The city of Kherson, which Ukraine liberated in November, has suffered intense mortar and artillery attacks from Russian forces across the Dnieper in recent days.

The shelling hit the maternity wing of a hospital, though no one was hurt, according to Kyrylo Tymoshenko, Volodymyr Zelensky’s deputy chief of staff. Staff and patients were moved to a shelter, he added in a post on Telegram.

Russia rejects Zelensky’s ‘peace formula’: Lavrov

Russia will not use Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s “peace formula” as a basis for negotiations and believes Kyiv is still not ready for real peace talks, Russia’s RIA news agency cited foreign minister Sergey Lavrov as saying on Thursday.

Lavrov also told RIA that Kyiv’s idea of driving Russia out of eastern Ukraine and Crimea with Western help was “an illusion”.

The Russian foreign minister’s comments come as Zelensky has been pressing the G20, United Nations and other countries and groupings to embrace a 10-point peace plan.

Ukraine ‘helped West find itself again’: Zelensky

President Volodymyr Zelensky has declared his country a “global leader” that “helped the West find itself again” during his end-of-year speech to parliament.

“Ukraine became one of the global leaders,” he told lawmakers, his cabinet, other senior officials and the top military brass.

“Over 10 months of this year, we helped everyone. We helped the West find itself again, to return to the global arena and feel how much the West prevails. No one in the West fears nor will they fear Russia,” he added.

The 45-minute speech, which was held behind closed doors, was heavily focused on the war. He also used the occasion to outline ideas including decentralising the energy system and making it greener.

Ukrainian officials urge civilians to evacuate Kherson

Ukrainian officials are calling on residents to evacuate from Kherson amid renewed Russian attacks on the southern city.

“I’m telling these people that Kherson is one of the most dangerous cities right now. So I ask them to imagine that they are going on vacation for a couple of weeks. It may be easier for them to decide to move this way. But still, a lot of people are staying in the city,” Kherson city council member, Dmytro Poddubniy, told CNN.

Russia withdrew from the city in November in one of the most important military achievements by Kyiv’s forces since Moscow invaded 10 months ago.

FM says Russia wants situation in Ukraine resolved quickly

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov says Russia wants the situation in Ukraine resolved as quickly as possible, with a priority on defending civilians and saving soldiers’ lives.

“We are engaged in activities that will allow us to work far more efficiently in these territories in the near future,” the state-owned TASS news agency quoted him as saying.

Lavrov stated Moscow would beef up its troops and technological capabilities in Ukraine. He added that mobilised troops had undergone “serious training” and that the majority were not yet at the front.

Ukraine secured release of 1,456 POWs since war began

Ukraine has secured the release of 1,456 prisoners of war since Russia invaded, President Volodymyr Zelensky told parliament in an annual address held behind closed doors.

Kyiv and Moscow have held a series of prisoner swaps throughout the war.

Russia is thought to hold thousands of Ukrainian prisoners of war but the exact figures are unknown.

Russian airlines affected by Western sanctions

Russian airlines’ passenger traffic was down 15.7 percent in November year-on-year to 6.94 million passengers, data from the Rosstat federal statistics service showed, as the industry feels the effects of sanctions.

Western countries banned Russian airlines from using their airspace in response to Moscow invading Ukraine in February, cutting the airlines off from lucrative routes to Europe and the US.

Traffic for the first 11 months of the year was down 14.4 percent to 88 million passengers, Rosstat reported.

France reaffirms military support for Ukraine in official visit

French Minister for the Armed Forces Sebastien Lecornu has reaffirmed France’s “reliable and durable” military support for Ukraine during an official visit to Kyiv.

“We have studied the needs of the Ukrainian army to continue this aid in 2023,” Lecornu wrote on Twitter, posting a picture alongside Ukrainian defence minister Oleksii Reznikov.

France has already provided weaponry like the Caesar howitzer artillery system and created a fund of 200 million euros (about $210m) for Ukraine to buy equipment directly from French manufacturers.

‘Only a few civilians’ left in Bakhmut: Zelensky

President Volodymyr Zelensky says that “only a few civilians” were left in the eastern front-line town of Bakhmut, which has endured months of fierce fighting.

“Last year, 70,000 people lived there. Now only a few civilians are left there,” Zelensky said on Facebook.

Following months of defeat, Russian forces are now seeking to wrest control of the eastern region of Donetsk where Bakhmut has become the epicentre of fighting.

In Bakhmut, “there is no place that is not covered with blood. There is no hour when the terrible roar of artillery does not sound,” Zelensky continuued.

“Still, Bakhmut stands,” he added.

Earlier this month, the president made a surprise trip to Bakhmut, describing the town as Ukraine’s front-line “fortress”.

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