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Ukraine update: Zelensky says counteroffensive needs fa...

World

UKRAINE UPDATE: 15 JUNE 2022

Zelensky warns more people will die, urges faster arms deliveries; Russia continues assault on Severodonetsk

Boys climb on a Russian tank that was destroyed in fights with the Ukrainian army, displayed at Mykhailivskyi Square, in Kyiv, Ukraine, on 12 June 2022. (Photo: EPA-EFE / Roman Pilipey)
By Bloomberg
14 Jun 2022 0

President Volodymyr Zelensky said that Ukraine’s defence against Russia may stagnate if deliveries of advanced weapons from Ukraine’s allies don’t accelerate, and that the fighting is ‘very fierce’ in the east.

Russia continued its assault on Severodonetsk, shelling the city and surrounding villages as it pushed to capture the Ukrainian government’s last major foothold in the eastern region of Luhansk. The regional governor said Russian troops now control 80% of the city.

Ukraine has asked Europe for temporary grain storage for its upcoming harvest after Russia seized areas to the south and east and damaged silos.  

Key developments

US Open to let Russians compete under neutral flag 

The United States Tennis Association will let Russian and Belarusian athletes compete in this year’s US Open under a neutral flag.

“Based on our own circumstances, the USTA will allow all eligible players, regardless of nationality, to compete at the 2022 US Open,” organisers said in a statement, adding that they continue to condemn the invasion of Ukraine.

Russia says critic Navalny sent to maximum security prison 

Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny has been transferred to a maximum-security prison in Melekhovo in the Vladimir region east of Moscow, Tass reported, citing comments from an official.

Navalny, who has criticised Russia’s war in Ukraine, lost his appeal last month against a new nine-year prison sentence, a move his supporters say is aimed at further isolating President Vladimir Putin’s top critic. Navalny’s spokeswoman, Kira Yarmysh, said on Twitter that his whereabouts had not been confirmed.

Ukraine agriculture has lost $4.3bn from war 

Ukraine has suffered $4.3-billion in damage to farmland, machinery and livestock as a result of Russia’s invasion, according to the Kyiv School of Economics.

About half of the “already immense” destruction from the war comes from pollution caused by land mines and unharvested crops, according to a report by authors Roman Neyter, Hryhorii Stolnikovych, and Oleg Nivievskyi. Almost a quarter of the total – $926-million – accounts for damage done to farm machinery due to military activity and occupation, they write. 

Read the full story here.

Russia extends detention of US basketball star Griner 

Russia’s detention of Brittney Griner, the US basketball star and Olympian, has been extended until July 2, Tass reported. 

Griner is being held for allegedly possessing vape cartridges containing cannabis oil. US officials have said the WNBA player is being wrongly detained, a signal they believe the case is political, not criminal, amid rising US-Russian tensions. The court granted a request that Griner be detained for 18 more days while an investigation continues, Tass reported, citing the court’s press service.

 

 

 

Russia scours Far East for old tanks 

Russia is scraping across the country to find manpower and weapons, including old tanks based in the Far East, having used up much of its military capacity in the first 100 days of its invasion of Ukraine, according to senior European officials with knowledge of the situation on the ground.

As a result, Russia may be only a few months from needing to slow operations for a major regroup, these people said.

EBRD to provide Ukraine’s Naftogaz €300m loan 

The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) will provide Ukraine’s state-run energy company Naftogaz with a loan of as much as €300-million to help compensate for the loss of natural gas production following Russia’s invasion, according to a statement on its website.

“The urgency to act is clear. Gas is needed: for the next heating season, for electricity production, and more broadly for supporting the economy,” said EBRD Vice-President Alain Pilloux. “The replenishing of gas stocks must start now to avoid serious consequences in the autumn.”

Naftogaz will get an initial tranche of €50-million from the EBRD to purchase gas and aims to raise €1-billion in total to buy as much as one billion cubic metres of gas for winter, according to the statement.

Russia bans UK journalists, defence officials 

Russia is banning entry to 49 British correspondents and editors, as well as senior executives of UK defence companies, in what the Foreign Ministry called retaliation for the treatment of Russian journalists by the authorities in London. Prominent BBC, ITV and Sky News reporters were among those named, as well as former Moscow correspondents from The Guardian and editors of newspapers including The Times, the Daily Telegraph and the Daily Mail.

Senior UK defence officials Jeremy Quin and Leo Docherty were included on the list, as well as top British army officers and senior officials from BAE Systems and Thales UK. A Russian Foreign Ministry statement said they were involved in “making decisions on the supply of weapons to Ukraine”.

US Treasury extends carve-out for energy payments 

The US Treasury Department has extended a general licence for transactions related to Russian energy, giving US people and entities until December 5 to make and process payments, a date that coincides with a pending European ban on Russian oil imports.

A Treasury spokesperson said the licence will allow the US’s European allies time to transition away from Russian energy as the West attempts to restrict one of Russia’s main revenue sources. The carve-out was previously set to expire on June 24.

The US has moved in recent days to tighten sanctions, preventing US investors from purchasing Russian corporate and sovereign debt on the secondary market. But US officials have also been quietly encouraging shipping companies and insurers to help facilitate the movement of grain and fertiliser in the Black Sea as Russia’s status as a major commodities exporter has complicated efforts to isolate it both financially and economically.

 

 

 

Putin to meet Indonesian president on June 30, Tass reports

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin will meet Indonesian President Joko Widodo in Moscow on June 30, the state-run Tass news service cited an unidentified Kremlin source as saying. That would mark a rare visit by an international leader since the Russian invasion of Ukraine began. Indonesia is the current chair of the Group of 20 and will host the G20 summit of leaders in November in Bali.

US President Joe Biden called in March for Russia to be removed from the G20 over the invasion. Widodo invited both Putin and Zelensky to attend the summit in separate calls in April as Indonesia sought to maintain a neutral stance. 

Amid speculation over whether the Russian and Ukrainian presidents would meet there, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov has declined to say if Putin will attend the G20 in person, saying it’s “premature” to discuss details of Russia’s participation.

Gas surges in Europe 

European natural gas surged after Russia’s Gazprom said technical issues could reduce flows through an important link to Germany and the operator of a key export terminal in the US said the facility may remain shut for three months.

Ukraine says it downed Russian missiles in western region 

Air defences blocked several missiles over the Ternopil region of western Ukraine, governor Volodymyr Trush said on Telegram. One missile, launched from the southeast, was downed in the neighbouring Lviv region and its wreckage fell on a brick factory, causing four casualties including one child, according to Lviv’s regional governor, Maksym Kozytskyi.

Three Russian cruise missiles launched from the Black Sea were knocked down on Tuesday afternoon by anti-aircraft missile systems, the Air Force Command said on Facebook.

Russia to open humanitarian corridor from Severodonetsk  

Russia’s Defence Ministry said it will establish a humanitarian corridor from Severodonetsk to the separatist-held part of the Luhansk region on Wednesday from 8am local time to 8pm.

Zelensky says war may stagnate on slow weapon deliveries  

The military situation in Ukraine may stagnate and more people can die if advanced weapon deliveries from the West aren’t sped up, Zelensky said in an online press conference with Danish reporters from Kyiv.

“We are losing people, that is the biggest problem,” Zelensky said.

Ukraine needs adequate weapons to be able to hit targets from long distances within its territory, he said, even as he ruled out attacking objects in Russia. Without such weaponry, both sides keep moving the front line in small pushes from one to five kilometres in either direction. Zelensky reiterated that the war will end only when all foreign troops leave the country and its territorial integrity is restored.

Rights court condemns Russia’s ‘foreign agent’ law 

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) unanimously condemned Russia’s Foreign Agent law as a violation of the freedoms of assembly and association, saying the measure used “capriciously imposed fines” against civil society groups. It ordered the Kremlin to pay damages and costs totalling more than €1.1-million in response to applications by 73 Russian NGOs labelled “foreign agents” under the 2012 law.

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said Russia no longer recognises ECHR decisions after Putin signed a law on Saturday declaring its rulings after March 15 unenforceable in the country. 

Russia has used the “foreign agents” law to target civil society groups, independent media and individual journalists critical of the authorities as well as human rights organisations such as Memorial and the Moscow Helsinki Group. It requires them to place the “foreign agent” label on all materials they produce and to comply with elaborate reporting requirements under threat of prosecution.

Ukraine asks Europe for grain storage 

Ukraine asked European partners for temporary grain storage to help preserve its next crop. 

Deputy Agriculture Minister Markian Dmytrasevych told a European Parliament committee that Ukraine’s total grain storage capacity had been reduced by 15 million tonnes to 60 million tonnes after Russian forces occupied areas in the south and east and damaged silos in artillery and missile attacks.

Grain producers and exporters may face a storage deficit of between 10 million and 15 million tonnes by October after the new harvest is collected from fields.

Russia steel output to fall by 15% in 2022 

Russian steel production is poised to decline by 11 million tonnes this year to 59.6 million tonnes, the nation’s biggest producer NLMK said in a statement. 

Steel is one of the Russian industries that have been hardest hit by sanctions.

Millionaires flee Russia, says Henley 

Russia suffered the biggest emigration of millionaires in the world during the past six months, with a forecast net outflow of 15,000 by the end of 2022, according to a report by Henley & Partners. 

That accounts for about 15% of Russia’s population of high net worth individuals, and 9,500 more than in 2019, pre-pandemic.

The Russian invasion is also driving millionaires out of Ukraine, which is predicted to suffer the highest net loss in the country’s history – 2,800 people or 42% of its high net worth individuals. 

Severodonetsk situation difficult, official says 

Russian forces shelled a chemical plant where 540 to 560 local people are sheltering, Oleksandr Stryuk, head of Severodonetsk military administration, said on national television. 

There is a stockpile of provisions at the shelter. Ukrainian forces are fighting to maintain their foothold in Severodonetsk and are evacuating civilians sporadically but conditions are “above difficult”, Stryuk said. 

Luhansk’s regional governor Serhiy Haiday said Russian forces have also been shelling and storming the villages around Severodonetsk.

Finland gives Fortum time to exit Russia  

Finland is prepared to give Fortum Oyj time to sell its Russian power plants and follow other Western energy companies out of Russia.

The departure of the state-controlled utility is the next step in severing energy ties between the two neighbours after Russia halted exports of both electricity and gas in the past few weeks. Fortum, which operates seven thermal power plants in the Ural region and western Siberia, said last month it would prefer to sell them as part of the exit. 

“No country could allow power plants shutting overnight,” said Tytti Tuppurainen, the Finnish minister for European affairs, who oversees state holdings in Fortum and other important companies. “Therefore we understand that this exit has to be a managed one” and that it “cannot happen overnight”.

Portugal’s PM says Europe should focus on aid 

Portugal’s prime minister, Antonio Costa, said in an interview with the Financial Times that the European Union should focus on providing help quickly to Ukraine instead of holding “legal debates” over the lengthy process of whether to designate the country as a candidate for membership. 

“My focus is to obtain in the next European Council a clear commitment on the urgent support and to build a long-term platform to support the recovery of Ukraine,” he told the newspaper in London. “This is my main priority. The most important are not legal debates about Ukraine but practical deliveries.”

Russia controls 80% of Severodonetsk 

Russian forces now control as much as 80% of Severodonetsk city, according to Luhansk regional governor Serhiy Haiday.

All three bridges linked to the city in the eastern Luhansk region have been destroyed, he said, and it’s not possible to evacuate civilians or bring in humanitarian aid. “The situation is difficult,” he said.

The Ukrainian General Staff said in its morning update that Russia reinforced its units near Severodonetsk, moving as many as two battalion tactical groups to an area in the vicinity of nearby towns Rubizhne and Kreminna. DM

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