UKRAINE UPDATE: 23 JUNE 2022
EU leaders plan to grant candidacy after Zelensky’s lobbying; Xi slams sanctions at BRICS summit
European Union leaders plan to grant candidate status to Ukraine after intense lobbying by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. The formal move will come at the bloc’s summit in Brussels starting on Thursday.
European officials are pushing back against a US initiative aimed at setting a price cap on Russian oil sales, while Germany is preparing to trigger the second stage of an emergency gas plan after Gazprom cut deliveries through a key pipeline by about 60%.
- Europe industries cut gas use as continent saves fuel for winter
- Crop facilities hit at Ukraine port, adding to war’s food damage
- Xi slams sanctions for ‘weaponising’ world economy at BRICS open
- Erdogan is hung up on the power one Kurdish woman has in Sweden
- Dubai becomes new Switzerland for traders of Russian commodities
Zelensky says situation in Luhansk is ‘the toughest’
Fighting continued in the eastern city of Sievierodonetsk; and the vicinity of the Azot chemical plant, where more than 550 civilians are sheltering, was hit by shelling, according to Serhiy Haiday, the governor of the Luhansk region. Zelensky said the situation in Luhansk was “the toughest” in the country. In neighbouring Donetsk, fighting raged along the entire front line. Residential buildings, a school, railway tracks and other facilities were damaged, with one person killed and 15 injured, according to Ukraine’s military, which also reported heavy fighting in the southern region of Kherson.
Germany should brace for further gas cuts, official says
German Economy Minister Robert Habeck said his country should brace for Russian President Vladimir Putin to further squeeze gas imports, a decision that may trigger the next stage of the country’s gas-emergency plan.
“Given the current situation, we must assume that Putin is ready to reduce the gas flow further,” Habeck said on Wednesday on the sidelines of an air show outside Berlin. “We are preparing for all scenarios.”
Habeck said a further cut in flows could prompt the government to move to the second stage of its crisis plan. That could mean changing the law to allow energy companies to pass on cost increases to homes and businesses. It may also involve firing up more coal-fired power plants to minimise gas consumption.
Von der Leyen praises Ukraine before council decision
Ukraine implemented about 70% of EU rules, norms and standards, European Commission Ursula von der Leyen said in a speech in the European Parliament. She praised the “immense progress that Ukraine’s democracy has achieved,” but emphasised that more work is needed to fight corruption and loosen the grip of oligarchs on the Ukrainian economy.
Expressing her support for Kyiv’s EU candidacy status, Von der Leyen said that “it is now up to the European Council to decide, and live up to the historic responsibility we are confronted with”.
EU leaders plan to grant Ukraine candidate status
The bloc’s leaders have drafted a joint statement, seen by Bloomberg, that says the EU is granting candidacy status to Ukraine and Moldova, which will then be expected to meet a set of conditions related to the rule of law, justice and anti-corruption. The leaders will also tell Georgia it can achieve the same status after meeting certain conditions.
“The future of these countries and their citizens lies within the European Union,” the leaders plan to say. The draft statement needs to be formally approved by leaders and could still change. The membership process is expected to take years.
Germany plans conference to set up Marshall Plan for Ukraine
Chancellor Olaf Scholz said Germany and the EU would jointly host an international conference with donors and experts later this year to discuss a multibillion-euro reconstruction plan for Ukraine.
“We have to agree on this — also with the advice of experts and scientists — how such a Marshall Plan for Ukraine can look like, how we coordinate it internationally, how we will decide together on which investments help Ukraine to move forward the most quickly on its European path,” Scholz told legislators in Berlin.
Scholz said he would present the idea together with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen to other European leaders at the summit in Brussels.
Ukraine in talks for Turkey meeting on grain exports
Ukraine is taking part in organising a meeting in Turkey to release its grain exports through ports that have been blocked by Russia’s forces since the invasion, according to Serhiy Nykyforov, a spokesman for Zelensky. He declined to provide any details.
Turkey’s Defence Ministry on Wednesday said talks with Russian military officials held in Moscow on Tuesday were constructive toward starting the export of grains stuck in Ukrainian ports and that an understanding for the solution of the problem through talks with Ukraine and the UN was reached.
“A four-way meeting is expected in Turkey in the coming weeks following talks with Ukraine and the UN,” Turkey’s Defence Ministry said in a statement without elaborating.
Ukraine posts video of drone attack on Russian refinery
Video footage of a drone crashing into the Novoshakhtinsk oil refinery in Russia’s Rostov region appeared on the YouTube channel of Ukraine’s land forces, which labelled it “holy fire,” as well as on social media. While the authorities in Kyiv haven’t commented, Russia’s state-run Tass news service cited local officials in Rostov as saying the drone was Ukrainian.
The refinery blast is the latest in a series of explosions and fires at sites in Russia that potentially are linked to military supply since President Vladimir Putin ordered the February 24 invasion of Ukraine. That has prompted speculation about a sabotage campaign behind enemy lines by people linked to Ukraine, which hasn’t claimed or denied responsibility for the incidents.
Russian strike damages grain terminal in Ukraine
Rocket attacks on the Ukrainian port city of Mykolayiv have damaged a terminal owned by agricultural trader Viterra. The terminal can export as much as 1.5 million tonnes of vegetable oil a year.
Ukraine refugees in Switzerland get chance to swap banknotes
Refugees from Ukraine in Switzerland will soon be able to swap some of their banknotes for francs, echoing a similar policy in the EU.
Qualifying individuals will be allowed to make a one-off exchange of up to 10,000 hryvnia ($338) at selected UBS and Credit Suisse branches as of June 27, the Swiss government said.
German howitzers delivered to Ukraine
Germany has delivered the seven PzH 2000 self-propelled howitzers it promised to Ukraine, and more equipment, including 30 Gepard anti-aircraft guns, the Iris-T air-defence system and three Mars II rocket launchers, will follow, according to Defence Minister Christine Lambrecht.
Lambrecht told legislators in the lower house of Parliament in Berlin that Germany was near the limit on what it can supply to Ukraine from stocks held by its own armed forces. It’s therefore partnering with countries including Slovakia, Poland, the Czech Republic and Greece on swap programmes under which it will replace Soviet-model equipment they send to Ukraine with modern kit, she added.
Russia preparing response to Kaliningrad measures
Russia is preparing retaliatory measures in response to Lithuania’s application of an EU ban on the transit of sanctioned goods to the Baltic enclave of Kaliningrad, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.
Different measures are under consideration over the EU’s “unfriendly” behaviour, Peskov said. The restrictions that came into force last week affect as much as half of all transit goods transported to Kaliningrad via rail through Lithuania, according to local authorities in the Russian province.
First foreign ship allowed to leave Mariupol
A Turkish cargo ship became the first foreign vessel allowed to leave Ukraine’s Mariupol since the port fell under Russian control.
Dry bulk carrier Azov Concord departed on Wednesday a few hours after a Turkish military delegation visit to Moscow, Turkey’s Defence Ministry said in a statement.
Switzerland resumes imports of Russian gold
Switzerland imported gold from Russia for the first time since the invasion, showing the industry’s stance toward the nation’s precious metals may be softening.
More than three tonnes of gold were shipped to Switzerland from Russia in May, according to data from the Swiss Federal Customs Administration. Most refiners swore off accepting new gold from Russia after the London Bullion Market Association removed the country’s own fabricators from its accredited list.
Draghi faces coalition turmoil
Mario Draghi is facing the biggest coalition turmoil since he became Italy’s prime minister in 2021, just as he sets out for three international summits that will focus on the war in Ukraine.
Foreign Minister Luigi di Maio on Tuesday acrimoniously quit the Five Star Movement he once led following a clash with current party leader Giuseppe Conte over Italy’s military aid for the government in Kyiv. The move does not threaten Draghi’s support in Parliament, but it does change the balance of power in his coalition and potentially make it harder for him to push through ambitious reforms.
Accor may reconsider decision to stay in Russia
Accor is staying in Russia, where it has about 60 hotels and 4,000 employees, for now, but it may reconsider that decision, according to Chief Executive Officer Sebastien Bazin.
“There is a vast difference between the Kremlin and the Russian population,” he said at the Qatar Economic Forum. “I’m trying to be a caretaker for those 4,000 people. Every day we rethink what we should be doing. Humanly, there’s no great solution.”
Indonesian president to visit Ukraine, Russia
Indonesian President Joko Widodo will head to Kyiv and Moscow to push for peace and discuss the global food crisis caused by the war.
Jokowi, as the president is popularly known, will be the first Asian leader to visit the two countries since the war began, according to Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi. The visits will take place after he attends the June 26-28 Group of Seven meeting in Germany. Indonesia, as this year’s Group of 20 president, could host a potential meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Zelensky after Jokowi invited both of them to attend a November summit.
Zelensky lobbies European leaders
Zelensky said he is conducting a “marathon” round of telephone calls with European leaders to try to garner as much support as possible for the country’s EU candidacy. He also urged the EU to compile a seventh package of sanctions against Russia.
“Another Russian threat to Lithuania, another wave of pressure in the energy sector, another batch of lies from Russian officials about the food crisis — these are the arguments for the seventh package of sanctions,” Zelensky said late on Tuesday in his daily address to the nation.
India to resist anti-US messaging at BRICS
Indian negotiators will look to ensure any joint statement out of the BRICS summit of emerging market powers is neutral and prevent attempts by China and Russia to use the meeting to score a propaganda victory against the US and its allies, according to Indian officials with knowledge of the matter.
The virtual event, which Beijing is hosting this week, will bring together Xi Jinping, Putin, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, South Africa’s Cyril Ramaphosa and Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro. DM
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