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UKRAINE UPDATE: 31 MAY 2023

Putin pledges to boost air defence around Moscow after drone strikes; IMF signs off on fresh disbursement of aid

Putin pledges to boost air defence around Moscow after drone strikes; IMF signs off on fresh disbursement of aid
Russian President Vladimir Putin. (Photo: EPA-EFE / Mikhael Klimentyev / Sputnik / Kremlin Pool)

President Vladimir Putin pledged to boost air defence around Moscow after the Kremlin blamed Kyiv for the biggest attack on the Russian capital since the invasion of Ukraine started. Russia said it downed eight drones.

Mykhailo Podolyak, an aide to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, referred in a tweet to what he called a “protest” by drones, saying they refused to attack Ukrainian civilians and returned to “the authors of Russian ‘air #terror’” in Moscow. Several residential buildings in the city were damaged.

A spokesperson for the US State Department said Washington doesn’t as a general matter support attacks inside Russia. The US has focused on providing Ukraine with the equipment and training it needs to retake its own sovereign territory, the spokesperson added.

Earlier, Russia carried out another night of attacks on Ukraine’s capital Kyiv, the 17th so far this month. One person was killed and seven were injured, Serhiy Popko, the head of the city’s military administration, said on Telegram.

Latest developments

Ukraine, IMF reach agreement for $900m loan disbursement 

Ukraine reached a preliminary agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on a fresh disbursement of aid as part of a broader loan programme to the war-battered nation.

The staff-level agreement, which is subject to approval by the IMF’s board, paves the way for Ukraine to receive some $900-million next month. IMF officials signed off on the accord following talks in Vienna on Tuesday, saying Kyiv had met its performance criteria.

The IMF and Ukraine forged a loan agreement for $15.6-billion over the next four years in late March after the Washington-based lender changed its rules to be able to lend to a nation at war for the first time in its 77-year history. The programme aimed to support Ukraine’s economy and preserve its institutions amid the devastation of the Russian invasion.

 

 

 

Putin orders tighter air defences after drone strikes on Moscow 

President Vladimir Putin demanded that Russia strengthen air defences around Moscow after the biggest drone attack on the capital since he ordered the invasion of Ukraine, as his Foreign Ministry threatened “the harshest” retaliation against Kyiv.

While the strikes involving eight drones were repelled “satisfactorily” early on Tuesday, “it’s clear what needs to be done to seal the air defence in the capital,” Putin said in televised comments during a visit to a creativity centre in Moscow. “We will do it.”

The Defence Ministry in Moscow blamed Ukraine for the assault, saying missiles shot down five of the drones while electronic jamming was used to divert three others from their intended targets.

It’s the most serious incident in Moscow since two drones exploded over the Kremlin on 3 May in an attack that officials also blamed on Ukraine, which denied involvement.

Ukraine carried out the drone attacks on Moscow to try to create panic among residents and those responsible will be “severely punished,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Telegram.

Several residential buildings were damaged, Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin said. No one was seriously injured although two people sought medical attention and residents of two buildings were evacuated, he said.

The strikes followed another night of Russian attacks on Ukraine’s capital Kyiv, the 17th so far this month. One person was killed and seven were injured, Serhiy Popko, head of Kyiv city’s military administration said on Telegram.

Russian oil flows stay high three months into pledged output cut

Russian crude oil flows to international markets are edging lower, but still show no substantive sign of the output cuts that the Kremlin insists the country is making.

Four-week average seaborne shipments, which smooth out some of the volatility in weekly numbers, fell for the first time in six weeks in the period to 28 May, slipping to 3.64 million barrels a day. But crude flows to international markets remained elevated and were still more than 1.4 million barrels a day higher than they were at the end of last year and 270,000 barrels a day up on February, the baseline month for the pledged cut.

Moscow is seeking to convince its Opec+ partners that it has implemented an output cut of 500,000 barrels a day that was due to come into effect in March. That reduction was announced in retaliation for Western sanctions and price caps on Russia’s oil exports designed to punish Moscow for the invasion of Ukraine. The cuts were extended for the rest of the year, in line with voluntary reductions made by several of Russia’s Opec+ partners that were announced in April and came into effect at the beginning of May.

 

 

 

Kosovo clashes show EU’s Balkan ambitions are faltering

The European Union’s efforts to mend relations between Kosovo’s Serbian and Albanian communities are unravelling as violence spills across the north of the country.

The worst clashes in a decade erupted on Monday when Nato-led peacekeepers were called in to contain clashes between Serbian protesters and the Kosovo police. Thirty soldiers and dozens of Serbs were injured.

With the backing of the US, the EU has been leading talks between the Kosovo government and neighbouring Serbia in a bid to resolve disputes that are blocking their path to eventual EU membership. While the most substantive issue is Serbia’s refusal to recognise the independence of Kosovo, which formalised its break from Belgrade in 2008, the enmity between the two communities dates back to the war in Kosovo a generation ago.

Russia and China have both backed Serbia’s position, adding a geopolitical dimension to the dispute, and helping perpetuate the divisions that haunt the countries of the former Yugoslavia.

The standoff has condemned the northern part of Kosovo, mainly populated by Serbs, to economic limbo, paralysed by the frosty relations between Pristina and Belgrade while the ethnic-Albanian majority in the rest of the country has enjoyed relative prosperity.

The flareup comes at a critical moment for the Western allies who have backed the Kosovo state since its creation. Ukraine’s fight against the Russian invasion is delicately poised and the US and the EU are trying to push back against Kremlin attempts to win support in countries like China, India and Brazil and to portray Nato as the aggressor. DM

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