UKRAINE UPDATE: 8 JULY 2022
Zelensky confident UK’s policy won’t change post-Johnson; Russian missiles hit Snake Island
President Volodymyr Zelensky said he’s confident UK policy towards Ukraine won’t change any time soon after Boris Johnson announced his resignation as prime minister. US basketball star Brittney Griner pleaded guilty to a drug charge in a Moscow court.
The risk of potential disruption from Russia prompted a continued rally in European natural gas. Germany, Europe’s largest economy, braced as the Nord Stream 1 pipeline — the main conduit to the continent — is set to close next week for annual maintenance, with speculation emerging that it won’t return to full service.
Russian troops continued shelling Ukrainian targets including Snake Island near Odesa and Donetsk in the east. Foreign ministers from the Group of 20 nations began arriving for a two-day meeting in Bali where Russia’s war is expected to dominate.
- US to seek G20 side deals on Ukraine to get past Russia, China
- Germany to breach debt limits once again if Putin shuts off gas
- US, allies discuss capping Russian oil price at $40-$60 a barrel
- Russia’s war-weary tech talent floods into neighbouring Georgia
- Griner pleads guilty as Russia hits at US ‘hype’ on prisoners
On the ground
A Russian missile struck the Donetsk city of Kramatorsk on Thursday with casualties reported, the city’s mayor said. Russia attacked the Odesa region with missiles overnight, destroying two agricultural facilities and hitting Snake Island, the strategic outpost off the Black Sea coast that Moscow’s forces abandoned a week ago, local authorities said. Ukrainian forces raised their nation’s flag on the island early on Thursday. Also hit was the Moldovan-flagged tanker Millennial Spirit which has been adrift for four months after shelling early in the war. In the east, Russian troops attempted to establish full control over Luhansk, Ukraine’s General Staff said.
Russia won’t be defeated on battlefield, Putin tells party leaders
Russian President Vladimir Putin painted a defiant picture to leaders of Russian parliamentary parties, saying his military won’t be defeated by the smaller Ukrainian military.
“We hear today that they want to defeat us on the battlefield. What can you say here? Let them try,” Putin said at the Kremlin. Even as Western analysts estimate that thousands of Russian troops have died in the war, Putin warned: “We haven’t started in earnest yet” in the military campaign.
Russia isn’t rejecting participation in peace talks, Putin added. “But those who are refusing should know that the longer this goes on the harder it will be to reach agreement with us.”
Hemmed in by international sanctions and facing much tougher resistance in Ukraine than it expected, Putin claimed Russia wasn’t isolated. Peace talks between Russian and Ukrainian officials have been stalled for months as intense fighting goes on in the east.
US to seek G20 side deals on Ukraine
The US will seek to forge agreements with like-minded countries over Ukraine on the sidelines of the G20 foreign ministers’ meeting in Bali this week, a senior state department official said, a sign that broader consensus will be tough with Russia and China in attendance.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken will use the event to stress that Washington can’t conduct business as usual with Moscow and argue that many of the problems confronting the globe, including a food and energy crisis, were caused by Russia’s invasion.
US basketball star pleads guilty as Russia hits at US ‘hype’
Women’s National Basketball Association star Brittney Griner pleaded guilty at a Moscow court to smuggling cannabis oil in vape cartridges as Russia blamed US media “hype” over the fate of jailed Americans for impeding talks on potential prisoner swaps.
Russian tycoon calls sanctions ‘weapons of mass destruction’
A Russian fertiliser tycoon said Western sanctions on companies like his are “economic weapons of mass destruction,” hurting people most at risk from hunger.
His comments to a Swiss newspaper come as Russian and Ukrainian fertiliser, grains and other farm exports have been disrupted by Moscow’s invasion, helping food costs to spiral. US and European Union sanctions on potash sales from Russia-allied Belarus and China’s move to rein in shipments added to the crunch.
“EU sanctions mean suffering, famine and migration flows for many hundreds of millions of people,” Andrey Melnichenko, the founder of fertiliser-maker EuroChem Group, told Die Weltwoche.
Zelensky says UK’s Johnson is ‘true friend of Ukraine’
President Volodymyr Zelensky called British Prime Minister Boris Johnson “a true friend of Ukraine”, but told CNN he’s confident that the UK’s policy towards the embattled nation won’t change.
Ukraine gained a lot from their relationship with Johnson, first and foremost of which was military support, Zelensky told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer in an interview on Thursday.
Ukraine president meets with US senators
Zelensky met on Thursday in Kyiv with two US senators, Democrat Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut and Republican Lindsey Graham of South Carolina.
The Ukraine leader told the pair that he counts on Congress’s support for the continued delivery of modern air defence systems. His comments came a day after he said that “finally” Western artillery had “started working very powerfully” for Ukraine.
Zelensky said he wants “to allow women with children [to] return home by September 1” when the new school year will start in Ukraine.
EU Parliament approves €1bn loan for Ukraine
The loan is to help Ukraine’s “acute funding gap exacerbated by war”, according to a statement on the website of the EU parliament.
“Ukraine’s external financing needs ballooned due to the Russian invasion: besides the tremendous damage to roads, bridges, factories, houses, hospitals and other physical infrastructure, the country has also lost its access to the international financial markets.” The approved loan is the first part of €9-billion in planned macro-financial assistance for Kyiv
Poland may build terminal to help move Ukraine’s grain
Poland is considering building a large grain terminal as part of efforts to help move Ukrainian grain to the Baltic port of Gdansk for export, its agriculture ministry said. Poland sees a chance to use 15 trains with special adapters to avoid the need to change to a different track gauge between countries. Other proposals include streamlining veterinary procedures.
Ukrainian airline starts flights for Polish tourist operator
Ukrainian International Airlines started charter flights this month for Polish tourist operator Itaka, the company said by email. A Ukrainian Boeing 737-900 will be based at Katowice Airport in southern Poland and serviced by four Ukrainian crews.
Ukrainian International will service flights from Katowice to destinations around the Mediterranean, the Red Sea and the Canary Islands.
Ukraine summons Turkish ambassador over released Russian vessel
Ukraine summoned the Turkish ambassador, citing an “unacceptable situation” after authorities in Turkey released a Russian-flagged vessel that Kyiv said was shipping grain seized from the Ukrainian port of Berdyansk.
“The Ukrainian side has received this information with deep disappointment,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Thursday, calling for an investigation and a “comprehensive answer” to the events.
The Ukrainian chief prosecutor’s office last week asked Ankara to detain the Zhibek Zholy and confiscate its cargo of about 7,000 tonnes of grain.
Germany’s Habeck urges Canada to release turbine
German Vice-Chancellor Robert Habeck made a public plea to Canada to release a turbine that’s caught up in sanctions against Russia and critical for gas flows. He said the equipment for the Nord Stream 1 pipeline needs to be returned before maintenance work begins on Monday — eliminating an excuse for Putin to keep the conduit closed.
“I’ll be the first one who will fight for a further strong EU sanction package, but strong sanctions mean it must hurt and harm Russia and Putin more than it does our economy,” Habeck told Bloomberg. “Therefore, I ask for understanding that we have to take this turbine excuse away from Putin.”
Romania reopens Soviet-era rail line to aid Ukraine grain sales
Romania reopened a Soviet-era rail link connecting its Danube River port of Galati to Ukraine a month earlier than expected to help boost vital grain exports from its neighbour. Ukraine grain exports, blocked from leaving key Black Sea ports, have been confined to road, river and rail routes to European countries, with shipments well below the normal pace.
Zelensky says Western weaponry making an impact
Ukraine’s president said Western artillery has “started working very powerfully” to help Kyiv’s troops push back against Russia.
“Its accuracy is exactly as needed. Our defenders inflict very noticeable strikes on depots and other spots that are important for the logistics of the occupiers. And this significantly reduces the offensive potential of the Russian army,” Volodymyr Zelensky said on Wednesday in his nightly video address to the nation.
Zelensky said large parts of Kharkiv’s National Pedagogical University were destroyed on Wednesday by a Russian missile strike. “When it comes to the definition of barbarism, this strike fits the bill the most,” he said.
European gas extends rally as supply crunch haunts market
Natural gas in Europe headed for the longest stretch of daily gains in more than nine months as persistent fears of deeper supply cuts by Moscow spread through the market.
Benchmark futures, which have doubled their value over the past month, rose as much as 4.7% for a seventh day of increases. The crisis has also sent power prices to record highs as Russia’s tightening hold on energy supplies brings the risk that Europe may struggle to keep the heat and lights on this winter.
Scholz accuses Putin of using gas deliveries as weapon
The remarks from the German chancellor come as his country faces the prospects of further cuts in gas flows, with the Nord Stream pipeline, the main gas conduit to Europe, set to close for maintenance next week. Concerns are mounting that the pipeline won’t return to full service after the work.
“Germany has relied for too long and too one-sidedly on energy deliveries from Russia,” Scholz said at an event of the BEE renewable energy business association in Berlin. “Today we have to admit: Russia uses energy as a weapon. No one actually believes that Russia is reducing its gas supplies for technical reasons alone,” Scholz added.
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